Biden camp worried about pro-Trump hecklers at inauguration like they forgot about 2017
As presumptive President-elect Joe Biden and his team prep for his potential inauguration, fears are coming to the surface that Trump supporters may swarm the event. Even worse, Biden supporters may not show up at all due to COVID fears. Planners are terrified that Trump fans will fill the void with heckling and protests.
According to the Daily Beast, Biden is facing a logistical headache as he prepares for his formal inauguration on January 20, 2021. The media outlet asks, “How can you hold a mass-attended event in the midst of a pandemic while also preventing it from becoming a Trumpist counterprotest?”
Planners have public safety at the forefront of their concerns. On the campaign trail, Biden down-scaled events or went entirely virtual to ensure no risk of COVID spread on his behalf. Some are suggesting that the inauguration even be held virtually.
“Inaugurals always require intricate planning. This one will be a really delicate dance to have that element of accessibility without risk,” said Steve Kerrigan, who served as the CEO of the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC). “I cannot see a President-elect Biden, like Trump, putting narcissism or ego ahead of the safety of people.”
For the first time in history, an incoming president and his team may be wondering how to actually keep attendees away and how to prevent Trump supporters from gathering instead.
“What do you do if our people don’t show up and his do?” asked one official involved in inaugural preparations. “They probably will and the last thing you want is a MAGA rally on the Mall when Joe Biden is sworn in as president…. I think [Trump] would want to make it as much of a sh*tshow as possible.”
Inaugurations are huge and arduous affairs. Taken into consideration are massive crowds and security. Huge amounts are spent on these events and organizing one can be a nightmare. Congress handles the traditional ceremony that takes place on the west side of the Capitol building as well as the luncheon afterward and the helicopter departure of the outgoing president. The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), meanwhile, handles the customary church attendance, and White House tea between the presidents that takes place before the inauguration as well as the parade back to the White House and the balls that take place thereafter.
Approximately 200,000 to 250,000 tickets are handed out by Congress for the event. A number of politicians on both sides of the political chasm are now discussing how to scale back the inauguration instead of expanding it.
One major fundraiser who has attended multiple Democratic inaugurations suggested that there “won’t be grace-and-favor seats in prominent places behind the president-elect” this go around, with the crowded dais instead filled with socially distant Cabinet officials and family members only. Another Democratic fundraiser predicted that the Biden team would push for a “save and celebrate” plan, in which you “save lives and do a mostly virtual event.”
Democratic operative Stephanie Cutter says that there is no provision requiring Biden to even go to the Capitol to be sworn in. “It is all ceremonial. You can do it in the [Capitol] rotunda if you want,” she said. “You just have to be sworn in by a Supreme Court justice.”
It’s even possible that the Secret Service and the National Park Service could seal off the entirety of the Mall and surrounding streets to make sure that crowds are kept far away.
The Biden team is warning donors that plans are still highly fluid, but there is a full understanding that any inauguration needs to put the safety of the public before any sense of tradition.
“There are a lot of conversations going on about that, and there certainly will be an inauguration in some form—we’re just trying to think about how best to do that in the context of COVID,” Cathy Russell, a member of the advisory council for the Biden-Harris transition team and former chief of staff to Jill Biden, told donors on a finance call on Tuesday evening. “It’s always this balance, right? Where he wants to do things responsibly and make sure that he’s not putting anybody in harm’s way… we’re definitely turning our attention to that and giving that a lot of thought right now.”
The Biden team is fearful that if massive numbers of Trump supporters show up that it will turn into a super-spreader event.
“I think it’s going to be almost impossible to keep people away from the Mall,” an official said. “If Saturday is any indication of how people want to participate, it is going to be hard. Part of the point of it is to allow people to participate and the cathartic nature of it being the end of Trump. People are going to want to go.”
Counterpoint: Dissent is Patriotic. https://t.co/zrYPeHE1gR
— Tim Carney (@TPCarney) November 11, 2020
Biden’s group is also afraid of the kind of heckling that President George Bush was greeted with in 2001. That included jeers, signs accusing him of thievery, and an egg thrown at his motorcade after the controversial recount in Florida put him in the White House.
They should perhaps recall what happened during Trump’s inauguration in 2017. Six police officers were injured and 217 protesters were arrested after a morning of peaceful protests and coordinated disruptions of Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony gave way to ugly street clashes in downtown DC.
At least two officers and one other person were rushed to the hospital after confrontations with protesters. Black-clad Antifa protesters smashed storefronts and bus stops, hammered out the windows of a limousine, and threw rocks at police who were lined up in an eastbound crosswalk. Officers responded by launching smoke and flash-bang devices into the street to disperse the crowds.
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 11, 2020
Protests occurred in New York, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon. Several hundred demonstrators in DC who actively confronted police were vastly outnumbered by the thousands of nonviolent protesters who swarmed the nation’s capital for Inauguration Day and the Women’s March on Washington. Sit-ins were held in multiple locations to snarl traffic and harass Trump supporters.
As Trump stepped forward to take the oath of office, six protesters, each wearing a letter of the word “RESIST,” stood up to chant the preamble to US Constitution.
Their shouting made it difficult for those seated nearby to hear Trump utter the words that officially made him the 45th President of the United States. Biden is unlikely to face this kind of resistance during his inauguration.
However, Team Biden is claiming that Trump-supportive groups have already signaled that they intend to organize in D.C. to protest Biden’s win. This weekend, a rally is reportedly scheduled in D.C. to include pro-Trump women’s group Women for America First, members of the Proud Boys, and others who marched in the 2017 Charlottesville rally. Another entity called the Stop the Steal Caravan, led by a host from Infowars, is driving from Austin and plans to arrive in Washington on Friday.
The transition team even expects President Trump to participate personally in the heckling. “I could see no church, no invitation to tea. He’d bounce from the South Lawn, and then go hold a rally to entertain the masses,” an adviser said.
If they don’t do a virtual inauguration, so many people will call BS on them and I’ll be one. There’s no need for it. However, there is a need in this country for someone to lead by example. https://t.co/2GeB060LJY
— Kyle Whitmire (@WarOnDumb) November 11, 2020