Heightened security at inauguration was needed


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Members of the National Guard stand watch at the Capitol for 46th President Joe Biden’s Inauguration.

Katie Sigal

Joe Biden was successfully sworn in as the 46th U.S. President on Jan. 20th. Given that, a mere two weeks earlier, a mob of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, security around Washington, D.C. was heightened like never before. 

Some members of the Republican Party like Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey thought the deployment of the National Guard and other security measures were unnecessary and “overkill.” However, the decision from Congressional Democrats to bring in the National Guard to oversee a safe Inauguration Day was valid and necessary. No matter what political affiliation, the safety of national leaders is always needed.

On Jan. 6, the U.S. Capitol was attacked by supporters of Former President Donald Trump while Congress was finalizing the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. The rioters were able to get past Capitol Police, down to the Senate floor and to the offices of several members of Congress. 

In a speech hours before, Trump incited the rioters to take these extreme measures. The FBI has been arresting and charging those involved with the attack, but the riot serves as an example of the domestic threats to democracy that presently exists.

Trump’s continued denial of the presidential election results combined with his supporters’ belief that he should be the one who was sworn in on Inauguration Day encouraged the Inaugural Committee to bulk up security. The inability of Trump to peacefully hand over power created fear in those who hold the tenets of democracy dear. Trump’s decision to not attend his successor’s Inauguration was viewed as positive by many, as there were no major protests in Washington that day.

After Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy made the final call to deploy them, about 25,000 members of the National Guard were sent to protect the Capitol, starting the week before the Inauguration. There was controversy on whether or not to call the guardsmen out, but the decision to have them come to D.C. was the right one.

Presidential inaugurations are always a matter of high security, but because of the breach of the U.S. Capitol and the other events leading up to Jan. 20th, the FBI, Secret Service and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police stepped it up to another level. The number of National Guard members in Washington for past inaugurations was not even half the amount at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

After the attack on the Capitol, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser made an emergency declaration , which was extended to after the Inauguration. This was vital in ensuring there were no riots and violent protests. As we saw with the Capitol riots, the protests put on by the Republican Party are not peaceful. So, in order to keep President Biden safe, keeping riots away was very important.

Twelve National Guard members were removed from the Inauguration. During the vetting process, 10 of them were removed due to questionable behavior and the other two were removed due to inappropriate texts and comments. The decision to screen all guardsmen was needed in order to not have any inside issues on Inauguration day.

One controversy of the additional security was that, the night after the Inauguration, National Guard members slept on the ground of a parking garage near the Capitol. Members of the National Guard and Congress were outraged that guardsmen were kicked out of the Capitol building and not given reasonable conditions to sleep. Agreeing with the need for added security, the comfort of the nation’s National Guard should have been planned for; they risk their lives to protect the country, so we need to make sure that we are treating them with the same respect.

Due to close corridors and unsafe conditions, nearly 200 members of the National Guard have tested positive for COVID-19 following the Inauguration. Guardsmen were screened when they arrived in D.C. but were not tested for the virus. 

In order to have prevented this outbreak, all guardsmen should have been tested on arrival and masks should have been mandated. Many guardsmen were pictured without a mask or not wearing their mask correctly. We know the risks of having thousands of people together during these times. Things like this should have been enforced to keep everyone safe.

The decision for added security was essential in having a successful and secure 59th Presidential Inauguration. In saying that, more planning and preparation should have been done in order to keep guardsmen themselves safe.