WASHINGTON – While Inauguration Day usually involves tens of thousands of people flooding into Washington to celebrate the ushering in of a new presidency, this year, D.C. was quiet and guarded in the days leading up to President Joe Biden’s inauguration. On Wednesday, D.C. saw far fewer people coming in from out of town, including those from Southwest Colorado.
Between the health risk presented by COVID-19 and the national security threat presented by domestic terrorists who stormed and infiltrated the Capitol on Jan. 6, many visitors were dissuaded from going downtown where several streets were guarded by members of the National Guard.
Carol Cure, vice chairwoman for the La Plata County Democrats, and Marsha Porter-Norton, La Plata County commissioner, said they knew of no Southwest Colorado residents who planned to attend this year’s inauguration. Both said COVID-19 was the main reason keeping people from making the trek.
In downtown Durango, the inauguration brought little notice. COVID-19 has limited restaurant capacities in La Plata County and the 10 a.m. time of the inauguration didn’t help bring attention to the event on Main Avenue.
Despite the coronavirus and tension felt by some as Biden enters his first term, Cure said she is “hopeful and optimistic about his term as president.”
“I’m just hoping for a more humanitarian outlook and actions from this administration than we’ve seen over the last few years,” she said.
Cure said she is looking forward to Biden’s work around economic relief during the coronavirus pandemic and his climate change and immigration policies during his first term as president.
“I think he’s also going to try as hard as he can to unify the country after four years of our president trying to divide us as a country,” Cure said.
Efforts to reach a member with the La Plata County Republican Central Committee were unsuccessful this week.
Unity was certainly a central focus of Biden’s inaugural address, as he promised to be a president for every American, even those who did not vote for him.
“For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury; no progress, only exhausting outrage; no nation, only a state of chaos,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.”
The Capitol steps were sparsely populated with elected officials and high-profile guests, and the National Mall, which is usually teeming with onlookers and supporters, was instead filled with flags representing the thousands who cannot attend in person because of the coronavirus.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., both attended the inauguration ceremony in person. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who attended former President Donald Trump’s departure ceremony did not attend Biden’s inauguration.
Bennet released a statement on Twitter shortly after Biden concluded his inaugural address:
“The new administration has already put forward proposals to bridge us from the pandemic into a growing economy while expanding opportunity and security for millions of Americans,” Bennet said. “I look forward to working closely with the new administration to pass this agenda, restore a government that works, and burnish our democratic example to the world once again.”
Herald Staff Writer Patrick Armijo contributed to this report. Grace George is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.