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Why Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony differed from the 58 before it

Nearly 200,000 flags replaced the traditional crowd

No one does pomp and circumstance much like America, but this year's inauguration was much different.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – No one does pomp and circumstance quite like Americans and perhaps the biggest display of that is a presidential inauguration.

Yet, this year was notably different from the previous 58.

You can thank a once-in-a-century pandemic, security fears triggered by the worst raid on the U.S. Capitol since 1814 and a boycott by now-former President Donald Trump for the major differences at Wednesday’s inauguration.

“It was sort of one of the visual reminders of how this inauguration was a little different,” said J. Miles Coleman who has studied and followed politics for years at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“One of the most memorable lines from four years ago was when Trump talked about American carnage. Then, you have Biden saying, ‘if you didn’t vote for me, I’m going to be the president for all Americans.’ Just the difference in tone was something else,” said Coleman in reflection.

Images of a packed National Mall during previous inaugurations show that a major difference in 2021 was attendance as nearly 200,000 flags replaced the traditional crowd.

“The challenges sort of driving this inauguration was on two fronts. One from the pandemic,” said Coleman.

The other, being the riots from two weeks ago.

National Guardsmen also replaced crowds as they protected streets in Washington, D.C.

COVID-19, however, created the biggest challenge with a smaller than usual parade and the replacement of the evening ball with a primetime special.

Trump became the first incumbent president to skip his successor’s swearing-in ceremony in 152 years.


About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors Virginia Today on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.