Updated: January 20, 2021 8:16:58 pm
US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in at the US Capitol on Wednesday in a scaled-down inauguration ceremony, markedly different from any the country has ever seen. Under the shadow of the recent siege on Capitol Hill and the rapidly rising coronavirus caseload, the event will take place amidst heightened security and a sparse crowd. But those are not the only two factors that make Biden’s inauguration unique.
While the traditional features of the ceremony — such as the oath of office — will remain the same, there are several striking differences from the presidential inaugurations of the past.
Here is a list of key differences that make this year’s inauguration ceremony stand out
200,000 flags placed to represent missing crowd
Nearly 200,000 flags have been placed along the National Mall, where thousands of cheering Americans would have otherwise gathered to witness the inauguration first hand, to represent the crowd that will not be attending the ceremony this year.
— Brandon Chaderton (@Bran_InTheArena) January 19, 2021
The field of flags, an art installation that covers the National Mall from 3rd Street to 13th Street in downtown Washington DC, was lit up for the first time on Sunday evening, The Hill reported.
We’re installing almost 200,000 state and territory flags that will cover the entire National Mall for #InaugurationDay!
Become a symbolic sponsor of these flags and donate to our partner charities. pic.twitter.com/DK78iZX1qO
— Biden Inaugural Committee (@BidenInaugural) January 18, 2021
As coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge across the United States, officials decided to drastically prune the guest list for Biden’s inauguration. The swearing-in ceremony will be limited only to members of Congress, who will be permitted to bring one guest each, the event’s organisers announced in December.
In September last year, 20,000 American flags were placed on the National Mall in remembrance of over 200,00 people who had succumbed to Covid-19 at the time.
Trump will not attend
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump said that he would not attend the Biden-Harris inauguration. He is the first incumbent president since Andrew Johnson to skip his successors swearing in, according to AP.
Hours before the inauguration, Trump is expected to fly to his beachside home in Florida, the Guardian reported. But Vice President Mike Pence and several other of his close aides will not be present at his sendoff, AP reported. They will, however, be present at the incoming president’s swearing-in ceremony, as per reports.
Fearing insider attack, FBI is vetting all service members
The FBI is vetting all service members deployed in the Capitol ahead of the inauguration as Defence officials have raised concerns about a possible insider attack, AP reported. This comes after it was discovered that several members of law enforcement agencies and the military participated in the siege on the Capitol building.
The vetting process will involve running their names on databases to check if they have committed any offences or are featured in watchlists anywhere in the country. Earlier, at least a dozen members of the National Guard were removed from duty at the Capitol due to various problems in their pasts, Politico reported.
Security presence ramped up
After the Capitol Hill riot, Biden will be sworn in under the watchful eyes of around 20,000 National Guard troops, who were deployed in DC to prevent any other violent insurrections in the days leading up to the presidential inauguration, the Washington Post reported.
The troops have been on a 24-hour watch ever since the House voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time on Thursday. In fact, security has been tightened at the Capitol buildings of states across the country, as groups of angry Trump supporters took to the streets to protest against what they believe was a “rigged election”.
But despite threats of more violence, Biden has said that he is not afraid of “taking the oath outside”, NPR reported.
Virtual inauguration parade
The planning committee decided to scrap the traditional inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue following the inauguration ceremony. Instead, there will be a virtual “Parade Across America” featuring performers and representatives from all 50 US States.
The parade will be hosted by director-producer Tony Goldwyn, who played US President Fitzgerald Grant in the hit TV show ‘Scandal’. It will feature performers and athlete, including singer Andra Day, comedian Jon Stewart, Olympic athletes Nathan Chen, Allyson Felix and Katie Ledecky.
It will also feature performers and speakers from communities across the country, USA Today reported. It will be livestreamed soon after the inauguration ceremony at BidenInaugural.org.
Airports beef up security, over 880 added to no-fly list
Airlines and airports have ramped up their security measures ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. The Federal Aviation Administration has said it will crackdown on unruly passengers by imposing stiff fines. Several airlines have also banned travellers flying to Washington from checking in firearms.
A spokesperson for Delta Airlines announced that the carrier had put 880 people on its no-fly list for not complying with its mask requirements and has banned others from flying with the airline for harassing other passengers or other behaviour linked to the US election results, Reuters reported.
Biden’s post inauguration TV special
There will be no inaugural balls after the swearing-in ceremony, as is otherwise the tradition. Instead, Biden’s inaugural committee is producing a 90-minute TV special, which will feature celebrities like Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake and Jon Bon Jovi. The program, titled “celebrating America”, will “spotlight American heroes,” according to a description of the event.