12 Jan 2021

Washington aims to secure Biden's inauguration in wake of Capitol rampage

5:44 am on 12 January 2021

US officials pressed law enforcement authorities to safeguard President-elect Joe Biden's Washington inauguration from any further violence by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump who stormed the US Capitol last week.

US President-elect Joe Biden pictured on 16 November 2020.

US President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: AFP

Biden's inaugural committee said on Monday US local time that the theme of the 20 January ceremony would be 'America United', even as the country grappled with the fallout of the assault on Congress by Trump's supporters.

The US National Park Service said it would suspend tours of the Washington Monument, a major tourist site, through 24 January due to safety concerns from threats to disrupt the inauguration.

In a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf made public on Sunday, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser called for a fresh approach to security after what she called last week's "unprecedented terrorist attack."

Bowser said the city was submitting a request for a "pre-disaster declaration" to allow for federal assistance and asked Wolf to cancel public gathering permits through 24 January.

A pro-Trump mob confronts US Capitol police outside the Senate chamber of the Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.

A pro-Trump mob confronts US Capitol police outside the Senate Chamber of the Capitol building on 6 January in Washington DC. Photo: Getty Images via AFP

US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff told CBS This Morning he expected law enforcement to ensure a safe event.

He said the threat of more violence in the last nine days of Trump's term was a reason to swiftly remove the incumbent, who fired up thousands of loyalists in a speech before Wednesday's storming of the Capitol.

"There's certainly a danger that the president will continue to incite his followers to further violent activity, aimed at stopping the peaceful transition of power," Schiff said.

The assault on the Capitol to challenge the certification of Biden's victory in the November election sent lawmakers scrambling into hiding and left five people dead. Dozens of people have been charged in the violence and hundreds more cases are expected.

Far-right social media users have discussed actions tied to Inauguration Day for months, but the storming of the Capitol "energised" the online chatter, Anti-Defamation League chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said last week.

Greenblatt, whose organisation tracks hate groups, said on Twitter that among the online posts were those by a group calling itself the 'Million Militia March', which had issued calls to action on a new social media platform call Wimkin.

Despite evidence of a fair election, Trump has challenged the validity of Biden's substantial electoral victory.

The Presidential inaugural Committee said in a statement on Monday its theme "reflects the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America," echoing Biden's campaign pledge to heal the country's divisions.

The committee has told Americans not to travel to the inauguration and said Washington's National Mall would be covered with 191,500 flags of different sizes, to represent the missing crowds.

A US presidential inauguration traditionally draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the US capital, but the ceremonies have been scaled back dramatically because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton and their spouses, will lay wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery following the swearing-in ceremony, the committee said.

Trump said last week he would not attend the ceremony, a decision the president-elect supported.

- Reuters

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