Trump supporters' 'online chatter' sparks tense scenes

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read

The US presidential inauguration ceremony on Wednesday will be a safe, outdoor event despite ongoing security threats, two aides to incoming president Joe Biden have pledged.

"Our plan and our expectation is that President-elect Biden will put his hand on the Bible, with his family, outside, on the west side of the Capitol," Kate Bedington, a leading spokesperson, told US broadcaster ABC on Sunday.

The Capitol building, which houses Congress, was attacked this month by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.

There are concerns about the potential for violence in the coming days by domestic extremists.

Last week, it was revealed the FBI feared a “huge uprising” in Washington and across the US in the lead-up to and during Biden’s inauguration.

National Guard troops reinforce security around the U.S. Capitol ahead of expected protests leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, following the deadly attack on Congress by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
National Guard troops reinforce security around the US Capitol ahead of expected protests leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. Source: AP

Inauguration on steps ‘incredibly important’

The inauguration will take place on the steps outside the US Capitol building, Bedington said.

Holding the inauguration outdoors on the steps of the very building that was attacked has symbolic value, Bedington said.

"I think that will send an incredibly important visual image to the world about the resilience of American democracy," she said.

Washington is facing tight security measures, with areas around the city centre, including the National Mall, shut down and thousands of National Guard troops deployed to the capital city.

The Capitol is seen as security preparations continue leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Preparations at the US Capitol for Joe Biden's inauguration. Source: AP

Remarkable photos of National Guard personnel sleeping on the floor inside the US Capitol made global headlines last week as security was ramped up following accusations Capitol Police were underprepared for the deadly riots days earlier.

And there has been a large presence at the US Capitol perimeter and surrounding Washington streets, with armed troops manning a large area in anticipation of any trouble.

Fences have been erected, cement blocks laid down and heavy trucks used to block traffic along main streets of the capital and arteries around the city, amid what the Federal Bureau of Investigations called "online chatter" of potential attacks by Trump loyalists.

"We are concerned certainly about these threats," the incoming White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain told broadcaster CNN. However, Klain said he was convinced the Secret Service and troops "will keep the inauguration itself safe”.

There are additional concerns about violence in state capitals around the country, with some governors calling in additional forces to beef up security.

Security contractors set up security fences ahead of the US presidential inauguration in Washington, DC on January 17, 2021. - The FBI warned authorities in all 50 states to prepare for armed protests at state capitals in the days leading up to the January 20, 2021 presidential inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Security contractors set up security fences in the streets of Washington. Source: Getty

Inauguration scaled back due to security threat, pandemic

The inauguration, which will see Biden sworn in at noon in line with the wording of the Constitution, will be scaled back not only due to concerns of potential violence, but also because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Klain admitted Biden was "inheriting a huge mess" from Trump with regards to the virus and that tackling the pandemic will be the top priority.

The House of Representatives has impeached Trump, accusing him of inciting an insurrection against Congress, as the violent mob attacked the Capitol just after one of Trump's rallies in which he used fiery rhetoric.

At least five people died, including a police officer.

An impeachment trial in the Senate, the upper legislative chamber, will likely only start after Trump leaves office.

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