Security Fears Over Biden’s Upcoming Inauguration

White House Potection

US Secret Service and federal law enforcement agencies are gearing up for a possible violent attack on Wednesday’s inauguration of Joe Biden. Preparations in Washington DC have already begun, with security forces undergoing a vast mobilisation effort unlike anything that has been seen in recent US history.

The coordinated plan sees the FBI, National Guard, and the US Marshals Service collaborating on security deployments across the US Capitol and other federal buildings. As many as 25,000 members of the National Guard will be on high alert, along with thousands of police and tactical military forces.

A 2.4-metre steel fence has already been erected at the Capitol where the inauguration will take place. One Secret Service officer said that “everyone can rest assured they are throwing the kitchen sink at this event”.

The increased security efforts follow the storming of the Capitol by Trump-supporting extremists, some armed with weapons and zip ties, used for taking hostages. In the fallout of the event, further attacks have allegedly been planned on social media sites and far-right forums.

Reportedly, Trump supporters, who have largely been expelled from regular online platforms like Reddit and Twitter, have turned to the private messaging app Telegram to discuss their plans. Protests have been planned across the country this weekend.

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Trump supporters build makeshift hanging platform outside US Capitol / Getty Images

A Virtual Affair

It’s not only the machinations of the right that Biden has to worry about. In case anyone needed reminding, the coronavirus pandemic still rages across America, having now claimed some 390,000 lives. Deaths sit at around 4,000 per day; numbers that have slowly been increasing since October.

Because of this, Biden’s inauguration is slated to be a largely virtual affair. Democratic congressman James Clyburn states that he expects 75 to 80% of the inauguration to take place online.

Clyburn told CNN that, “if anybody saw the Democratic convention [in August] I think you saw a bit of what you will see for the inauguration”.

Physical crowds have been limited to Hose of Representatives and Senate members plus one guest each. That will mean just 1,000 people will witness the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, far fewer than the 300,000 to 600,000 that Trump drew, and lower still than the 1.8 million that Obama’s first inauguration had.

Viewing stands near the White House which would normally allow people to gather will not be put in place and almost all the typically lavish inaugural balls have been cancelled.

Still, the glitz and glamour has not been fully banished. While JFK had Frank Sinatra and the Obamas had Beyoncé perform at their inaugural balls, Biden will have Tom Hanks, Justin Timberlake, and Jon Bon Jovi in attendance, albeit, online only.

What Could Happen?

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Trump supporters enter the Senate Chamber with zip ties / Getty Images

Veteran Secret Service and Homeland Security officials have described feeling levels of concern unlike anything they have experienced before. Threats surfacing online include plots by armed groups to encircle the White House and there are fears that gunmen could target crowds and less well-protected areas.

In Telegram groups, information such as military field manuals are being shared along with encouragements to engage in “armed struggle” and “shoot politicians”.

On Tuesday, police in Chicago arrested a 45-year-old for threatening lawmakers. The man had called members of Congress and stated: “we will surround the White House and we will kill any Democrat that steps on the lawn”.

The layers of steel and armed protectors along with the diminished numbers for pandemic safety will, hopefully, make the transition of power a quiet and orderly one on Wednesday.

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