Outside the gates, hundreds gather in D.C. to see Biden and Harris make history

A crowd of about 50 presses towards the security barrier in an unsuccessful attempt to hear parts of the inauguration program. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY News)

A crowd of about 50 presses towards the security barrier in an unsuccessful attempt to hear parts of the inauguration program. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY News)

Though security barricades kept visitors blocks away from the Capitol, hundreds tried their best to catch a glimpse of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

A crowd of several hundred people gathered outside the security perimeter, despite strong warnings from the inaugural committee. Vendors sold T-shirts, hats, and other memorabilia as folks stood by the barricades trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to hear or see any part of the day’s events.

Former Wilmington, Delaware resident Marcia Church-Lynch was proud to support her fellow Delawarean.

“This is our day,” she said. “For us to have our Joe Biden as President of the United States is just awesome.”

She wore a beanie emblazoned with the logo MVP for “Madam Vice President” in honor of Kamala Harris. “Not only is she African American, she’s the first female. This is awesome.”

Inauguration merchandise up for sale outside the Capitol security perimeter include shirts, hats, and commemorative programs. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY News)

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware says the arc of events around the inauguration, starting with the Day of Service activities on Martin Luther King Jr. Day through his inaugural address, have all been focused on bringing Americans together. “It’s all about taking the Delaware values that have long informed Joe and his service and bringing them to this moment in our nation’s history,” he said.

Coons was relieved to see a smooth inaugural event with no interruptions or violence from those Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6. “We are lucky, one could say we’re blessed that there were no major incidents of violence today,” he said. “But we continue to have a genuine challenge, a real threat of domestic terrorism that’s the result of our internal divisions.”

Members of the Capitol Police march along N. Capitol St. wearing helmets and face shields in view of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY News)

With 25,000 National Guard troops guarding the Capitol and a massive security perimeter that extended along the length of the National Mall, Church-Lynch wasn’t afraid of a repeat of the carnage seen in D.C. on Jan. 6. “There was no way I was going to be afraid to come down here and be supportive,” she said.

The riot of Trump supporters inside the Capitol also inspired Rick Murphy from Akron, Ohio. He said he came to show his support for democracy following the Jan. 6 attack. “Bullies only know one way to be dealt with, you stand up to them and you go right back at them,” he said. “The big bully in charge left disgracefully today and we’re going to see a new operation here.”

There were a few Trump supporters in the mix. One held a sign that took a spin on one of Biden’s favorite phrases. It read “investigate ballot malarkey.” Another sign said “impeach 46.” Trump fans were vastly outnumbered by folks in Biden/Harris apparel.

Just a handful of people showed up to protest Biden’s inauguration, including the man holding this sign using one of Biden’s favorite phrases, “malarkey.” (Mark Eichmann/WHYY News)

Delaware Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, who was part of the inaugural planning committee, said the ceremony had the spirit of a nation that gets back up when it’s knocked down during the ceremony. “It was intentional that the former presidents participate to show that to the world, that’s who we are,” she said. “We wanted to maintain those traditions of standing on the Capitol steps and being sworn in.”

“This is a time for celebration, we’re excited to be here, we’re excited that they’re on this stage,” said Rev. Dr. Marcia Smith of Greenville, North Carolina. “This is a time for joy.”

Rev. Dr. Marcia Smith, Robert Hoskie and Marcia Church-Lynch were sporting hats celebrating “Madam Vice President” Kamala Harris. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY News)

She was especially excited to see Vice President Harris on the stage. “She is a reflection of my mother who was a tall, beautiful Black woman. She represents the diaspora, women of all ethnicities, and I’m here to stand with her and stand for her,” Smith said. “This is ‘herstory’ so we’re here to celebrate,” she shouted.

“It’s very important for Black women, women as a whole, not just in the United States, but globally,” said Roberta Hoskie from New Haven, Connecticut. “We have historically been last and this is great to be in a position of power… Many women have broken glass ceilings, but this is not a glass ceiling, this is a cement ceiling and it required much more to have it shatter.”

Pastor Shurland McLeod of Newark, NJ blows a shofar draped in American flags as part of a blessing on the inauguration. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY News)

“The fact that he has such a diverse administration, I think that’s going to help unify the divide of racial issues,” said Pastor Shurland McLeod who drove to D.C. from Newark, New Jersey to be a part of the inauguration. He blew a shofar draped with American flags as part of a blessing on the day’s events. “As believers, we are here to stand in the gap and pray in the spirit that everything goes well.”

Albert Elliott of Washington, D.C. was in attendance at both of President Obama’s inaugurations, and he didn’t want to miss this one.

Albert Elliott of Washington, D.C. carries a Black Lives Matter flag outside the security perimeter surrounding the U.S. Capitol before President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY News)

“President Biden and Vice President Harris are making history, and I wanted to witness part of that history,” Elliott said as he carried a Black Lives Matter flag outside the security perimeter. “I felt it was incumbent on me, if I was still able to walk and breathe, to get down here to participate in this.”

The throngs of people that would normally fill the National Mall for an inaugural event were replaced by fields of American flags, which while visually attractive, didn’t add the same energy to the ceremony.

“Even though it’s disappointing that we couldn’t have the kind of crowd that we would have liked to have been there, the folks that were there were given a special treat,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware. “I thought the speeches were great, Joe was especially good… I never thought I’d hear Lady Gaga sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” and just be blown away by it.

“Maybe if we’re lucky we can do a second act in four years. I hope so,” Carper said.

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