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No Large Protests In D.C., As President Biden Is Inaugurated

Inauguration Day has been quiet so far in Washington, D.C. Some 25,000 National Guard members are in the city, where insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol just two weeks ago.
Inauguration Day has been quiet so far in Washington, D.C. Some 25,000 National Guard members are in the city, where insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol just two weeks ago.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

Militias and mass protests did not appear in Washington, D.C., during President Biden's inauguration Wednesday — a welcome development for security and law enforcement agencies. Some 25,000 National Guard members are in the city, where insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol just two weeks ago.

The FBI warned last week that all 50 state capitals could see violent protests from people who refuse to accept Trump's loss to Biden.

But similar to the so-called Million Militia March that fizzled on Sunday, some far-right activists are telling their followers to stand down on Inauguration Day, citing a massive security presence at government buildings in Washington and state capitals.

The National Mall has been closed off to the public since Friday, part of an unprecedented security plan that has ringed the Capitol building with razor wire, fenced off Pennsylvania Avenue, and placed dozens of dump trucks to block intersections.

The National Mall has been closed off to the public since Friday, part of an unprecedented security plan that has ringed the Capitol building with razor wire, fenced off Pennsylvania Avenue, and placed dozens of dump trucks to block intersections.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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The National Mall has been closed off to the public since Friday, part of an unprecedented security plan that has ringed the Capitol building with razor wire, fenced off Pennsylvania Avenue, and placed dozens of dump trucks to block intersections.

Late Tuesday night, far-right podcaster Nicholas Fuentes told his followers not to go "anywhere near" D.C. or state capitol buildings.

"They are not messing around with this inauguration and they are desperate for an excuse to make an example out of somebody," Fuentes said. "STAY HOME!"

A few dog walkers were out on D.C.'s downtown streets Wednesday morning, including Donnell Dickson, 57. NPR's Hannah Allam spoke to Dickson, a life-long D.C. resident who is part of a Verizon crew that set up wiring and communications for the inauguration.

"I've never seen this a day in my life," he said. "My mother and father might've seen this, but I've never seen the city like this."

Dickson worked on the past four inaugurations – and he says it's normally so busy that there's little time to eat. This year, he said, it's "kind of disturbing" to see the city resembling a fortress.

NPR's reporters in the streets near the Capitol reported no sightings of pro-Trump crowds. Near the National Archives, a group of people gathered outside the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern to watch the inauguration proceedings on a large TV, cheering for the newly sworn-in President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

One man who said he's a Trump supporter said he plans to check out a rally near Union Station in the early afternoon. But, he added, if it seems like a bust, "I'm going home."

Several factors seem to have taken the wind out of activists' sails. For one thing, the Justice Department is targeting rioters for crimes committed at the U.S. Capitol, making some activists leery of returning to Washington.

In some states, organizers have warned their supporters that police could use new protests as "false flag" events, concocted to gather people for potential arrest.

"I think in some cases, they think that the events that are planned are honey pots that are created to get them in trouble," Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism recently told NPR.

Also, Twitter and Facebook have clamped down on accounts and messages that organizers relied on to fan outrage and draw support, and far-right platform Parler went down after Amazon stopped hosting it.

A Walgreens is boarded up in a nearly empty part of downtown Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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A Walgreens is boarded up in a nearly empty part of downtown Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Trump left the White House aboard Marine One shortly after 8:15 a.m. ET Wednesday, heading to Joint Base Andrews. After a brief speech, he boarded Air Force One for a final time, marking the end of a contentious one-term presidency.

Biden's inaugural ceremonies began shortly after 11:30 a.m. ET. The 46th president was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts on the Capitol's West Front.

Only around 1,000 people attended the inauguration in person, including former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Members of Congress also attended. City and federal officials have urged everyone else to watch the ceremony either online or on TV.

The National Park Service has set aside two areas along Pennsylvania Avenue to accommodate a limited number of demonstrators. Up to 100 people are being allowed to gather in each of the zones.

The areas include John Marshall Park, where demonstrators Jack Curtis and Kyle Contrata headed on Wednesday, carrying a Black Lives Matter flag. They told NPR's Tom Bowman that their goal is to show support for the incoming administration, despite the recent violence from pro-Trump extremists.

According to Curtis, "the idea is not to antagonize these people [Trump supporters] but it's important to be seen."

NPR's Marisa Peñaloza contributed to this report.

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