‘Not Taking Any Chances': 25K National Guard in DC on Eve of Inauguration Day

One day before the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies, D.C. is under a high level of security

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What to Know

  • President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be inaugurated Wednesday, Jan. 20, amid an "unprecedented" security effort in Washington, D.C.
  • More than 25,000 National Guard troops, road closures and other efforts have virtually locked down downtown D.C.
  • The 59th Inaugural Ceremonies will be livestreamed on NBC4 and NBCWashington.com

One day before President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are set to be sworn in to office, the central area of Washington, D.C., is locked down in a security effort Mayor Muriel Bowser calls “unprecedented.”

A total of 25,000 National Guard troops are actively supporting D.C. and the effort to secure inauguration, officials confirmed Tuesday morning.

The commander of the D.C. National Guard says there are three times the number of guard members present than normally would be for a presidential inauguration.

“We’re not taking any chances,” Maj. Gen. William Walker said.

The United States Secret Service is leading a massive security response involving numerous agencies from local police to federal agents.

Multiple people have been arrested amid the crackdown, including two people charged with firearm and ammunition-related offenses Tuesday at a vehicle checkpoint at 15th and Independence Avenue, the mayor's office said. Further details weren't immediately available.

Two National Guard members were removed from the inaugural mission after ties to fringe right group militias were uncovered, the Associated Press reported.

More security and resources flowed to the area after the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and Federal Bureau of Investigation warned that armed demonstrators may plan to protest Biden’s inauguration and the end of President Donald Trump’s term.

The security measures are onerous to many D.C. residents, workers and business owners.

Several major bridges closed, shut down inbound lanes or began redirecting traffic at 6 a.m. Tuesday. This led to considerable delays and slowdowns on Tuesday morning.

The Arlington Memorial bridge has completely closed in both directions. More are shutting down inbound traffic, including the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, 14th Street Bridge, South Capitol Street Bridge, 11th Street Bridge, I-695 Bridge and Sousa Bridge. Here’s a detailed list of closures.

The Wilson Bridge, the American Legion Bridge and Chain Bridge will all remain open.

“I know they’re trying to protect everybody. I live a couple of blocks from here and it’s ridiculous,” said one resident walking his dogs downtown.

D.C. is accustomed to dealing with pomp and circumstance and tight security, which usually come with tangible benefits. Four years ago, Trump’s inauguration pumped an estimated $1 billion into the local economy.

But this year the huge boost won’t materialize. City coffers are even missing out because no hotel occupancy tax will be charged for National Guard troops staying here.

Inauguration ceremonies typically bring lots of tourism dollars and other spending to the D.C. area, but this year the enhanced security means some businesses can't access many customers. News4's Justin Finch reports.

Businesses near the most secure zones are hurting under the double weight of road closures and a pandemic. Head chef and founder of Bubbie’s Plant Burgers & Fizz, Margeaux Riccio, said business has fallen off 70%.

“Either people can’t get to us or our delivery drivers, you know our third-party delivery drivers, are not able to get into the city,” Riccio said.

Bowser joined Ward 2 Council Member Brooke Pinto and Ward 6 Council Member Charles Allen Tuesday to stress that much of D.C. isn’t under a lockdown — neighborhoods away from the so-called federal enclave are not seeing such drastic changes.

Threats of attacks on President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration have prompted extreme security measures throughout the nation's capital. A former chief of staff for the CIA, Jeremy Bash, joined LX News to break down the protective bubble in place for Inauguration Day.

“We want people to see our neighborhoods where we raise our families,” Bowser said, inviting tourists to return in the near future. “All of these neighborhoods are what will become the 51st state of Washington, D.C.”

Bowser said she discussed the issue of granting D.C. statehood with Biden and the incoming president replied something like, "Kid, I've always been there with you."

Police Chief Robert Contee said that D.C. has the resources it needs to maintain public safety citywide.

The U.S. Capitol surrounded by armed National Guard troops, razor wire, high fences and checkpoints and heavy-duty trucks are blocking roads, just a few visible signs that this Inauguration Day will be like no other.

Still, many traditions will endure, including a parade that travels Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee has released a list of groups from across the U.S. who will take part in a virtual “Parade Across America,” including local groups.

The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States is going to look vastly different than the ceremonies of his predecessors, and the most striking difference may be that outgoing President Donald Trump will not attend. George Washington University history professor Edward Berkowitz joined LX News to explain what usually goes down on Inauguration Day and why Trump's refusal to attend is so unusual.

Howard University’s Showtime Band will bring a drumline, flag squad and dancers to perform live.

The drumline will play a special cadence to honor Harris, who graduated from the historically Black college.

Among those participating locally are members of the Arlington, Virginia-based Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which assists those dealing with the death of a military loved one. “I mean we’ve had a big loss in our family from a man who had served this country so well, and for him to be honored and for TAPS to be honored for the work that they do, we were just so thrilled,” Sara Wilson, a military widow, said.

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