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Courteous and professional is the best way to describe the demeanor of the troops on the ground Wednesday. This group was excited to have their portrait taken outside of Union Station. Photo by Pete Voelker.

On Inauguration Day, the Military Tried to Convince America It's Safe Again

In the wake of an insurrection, the military carried out what amounted to a psychological operation this week—and it worked.
January 22, 2021, 4:59pm

Was Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s inauguration one of the most successful PSYOPs in American history? Only time will tell, but all signs currently point to yes.

The insurrection on January 6th was unprecedented and shocking, creating fears of uprisings at state capitals and of the inauguration itself being attacked by right-wing radicals. If these groups were in the nation’s capital Wednesday, they did not show their colors, they did not throw their usual tantrums, and they most certainly didn’t change the course of history and tradition in our democracy. This is likely due to the fact that they had no power to do these things, with the Defense Department having organized and put together one of the biggest domestic missions in modern history.

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National Guard members and representatives of a litany of other security organizations occupied every part of downtown Washington, D.C. It appeared that nothing could get past them. These trained Guard members were courteous and helpful to the few who came to celebrate, as well as workers navigating the labyrinth of checkpoints on their way to the office.

Two variations of a small Cessna airplane circled above D.C. for the whole day, loop after loop, pointing their cameras and sensors toward the ground monitoring and recording all that was happening. 

Between January 6 and January 20, there were constant announcements of more security deployments to the capital—clear warnings to demonstrators that insurrection and terrorism would not be tolerated. The operation was successful, and Joe Biden is now our president, Kamala Harris is our vice-president, and Donald Trump lives in Florida.

Before the celebratory fireworks at the Washington Monument, as the sun was setting in D.C., Guard members were huddled in platoons outside of Union station, preparing to board buses. Similarly, long lines of flatbed trucks queued to enter the green zone, where they would start breaking down fences and safety infrastructure. Roads and bridges started to reopen by 7 p.m., and the city began to creep back to normalcy. It was a mighty effort that dissolved at sunset with the mission, seemingly, accomplished.

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Black Lives Matter Plaza, mostly empty aside from a couple demonstrators, security and press at around 6:30 a.m.

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The streets of the green zone were desolate and mostly full of either security, media, or workers headed to their office until about midday.

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Not many businesses were open in the green zone, making the few Starbucks, 7elevens, and Wawas extremely sought after by pretty much everyone downtown.

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National Guard PPE and other equipment is staged next to a checkpoint entering the green zone.

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Virigina State Troopers lined this section of Pennsylvania Avenue near the Navy Archives building. Many different law enforcement groups were present in downtown DC outside of the multi state national guard deployment, there were State Troopers, Sheriffs, Counterterrorism Units and more all under the guidance of the United States Secret Service.

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President Trump leaves D.C. for Andrews Airforce Base where he gave his last speech as a sitting United States president.

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A common sight in the green zone, here troops stand guard in front of a Metropolitan Police precinct.

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Public celebrations were at a minimum. Out of respect for the situation at hand, most people did not venture downtown to try and sneak a peak, but the few who did were excited nonetheless.

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Aerial surveillance circled the sky from sunrise to sunset.

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National Guard soldiers move from in front of the capital to its northern side near Union Station.

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A group of TSA agents wait in front of a Banana Republic before entering the green zone.

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Security was not just on the perimeter but scattered amongst downtown D.C. in a way that made sure you would never forget it.

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A small section on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Navy Archives was open to 25 people at a time. Many people in line waited for hours as they hoped someone who was admitted inside would get too cold and want to leave, entry was strictly one for one. This stretch of the parade to the White House was flooded with protestors in the 2017 inauguration—a very sharp contrast to 2021.

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Within the no car zone of downtown D.C., and outside of the extra heavily fortified green zone, people rode bikes, scooters, and other e-machines, celebrating the swearing in of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

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Security on the outside of the green zone was still palpable as far north as Dupont Circle.

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Boarded-up windows were ubiquitous, but they lacked the messages of unity that many cities experienced throughout the summer of 2020.

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Looking south on an almost empty Black Lives Matter Plaza while the presidential motorcade made its way to Arlington Cemetery.

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Late afternoon brought on a lot of much needed resting and relaxation by security. Finding spots to lay and set down gear was a growing trend.

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A man and his dog cycle around with a large Black Lives Matter flag. Aware of the threat, he also wore armor.

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Looking north to the edge of the car exclusion zone with the Washington Post offices to the left.

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U.S. Border Patrol had a major presence and operated throughout the city.

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Seeking warmth, troops sit in the back of a Humvee charging phones and taking a break off their feet.

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A man rolls a large crucifix while he argues with his friend about the direction they are meant to be heading.

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By 5 p.m. there were masses of security personnel headed for the exits.

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Montgomery County Police end their duty as they move out of the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C.

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Sun sets on the nation’s capital with a new administration in place and a Democratic majority in both the Senate and the House.

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The entrance to Lower Senate Park just north of the U.S. Capitol was a major staging area for the National Guard, with heavy presence and movement throughout the day.

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A solder enjoys a cigarette while huddled platoons wait to leave the nation's capital.

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Soldiers cheered for this man as he put on a dance show amongst hundreds of National Guard members eagerly awaiting their departure.

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Waiting for buses, troops stayed in their platoons and talked amongst themselves, some huddled very closely in an attempt to capture body warmth.

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Tired from a long day of service, these soldiers were moving out quickly once the buses arrived.

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Most buses I saw were so full that many occupants were relegated to standing, yet again.