(AP) –– As the sun rose over Washington’s Freedom Plaza between the U.S. Capitol and the White House ahead of Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, clusters of soldiers in full battle fatigues clustered inside metal barriers erected to restrict access to the procession route.
Some yellow placards on the barriers read “Biden-Harris 2021,” while others carried the seal of the presidency or inaugural insignias. American and District of Columbia flags flapped in high winds.
Traffic has been blocked off nearby in all directions. Revelers have been told to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Most offices in the surrounding buildings are closed, many boarded up with plywood to prevent damage in case violence breaks out Wednesday.
But one tall office building in view of the procession route has been fitted with towering signs reading “Welcome, Mr. President” and “Welcome Madam Vice President,” for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Biden and his wife, Jill, arrived at the complex on Wednesday morning, about 90 minutes before his noon swearing-in ceremony. They were accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and were greeted by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota.
The president-elect’s motorcade wound its way through a mostly deserted Washington following a morning church service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Streets that would typically be lined with thousands of inaugural onlookers were ringed instead with a massive security presence to include military vehicles and armed troops.
About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington following the violent melee at the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago.
Biden paused to wave from the Capitol steps before entering the building.
Biden took the oath of office at noon in Washington Wednesday, becoming the 46th president of the United States. The Democrat is preparing to take the helm of a deeply divided nation and inherit crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.
History will be made at Biden’s side, as Kamala Harris became the first woman to be vice president.
The ceremony in which presidential power is transferred is a hallowed American democratic tradition. And this time it serves as a jarring reminder of the challenges Biden faces: The inauguration unfolds at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago, encircled by security forces. It’s devoid of crowds because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are attending.
The other living former president, 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, previously announced he would not attend.
After being sworn in, Biden is set to inspect the readiness of military troops in a traditional “pass in review.”
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