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D.C. Residents Reflect On The City's Atmosphere Ahead Of Joe Biden's Inauguration


I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro on the streets of Washington, D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You guys mind going up to that checkpoint over there?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Security here is very, very tight.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: So if you want to put your phones, wallets, keys, stuff like that in here...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is a surreal scene. I am standing on K Street right now, and it is completely devoid of what would normally be pedestrian and car traffic. This is one of the main thoroughfares of downtown Washington, D.C. And instead, what we are seeing are National Guard troops. The streets have been cordoned off. There are concrete barriers. And in one location, there is now an armed checkpoint with dogs where cars are checked before coming into what is now been designated a new green zone. In many ways, Washington, D.C., right now feels like a city under siege.

ROSE NGUYEN: I sound angry, and I am angry.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Rose Nguyen, who owns the Rose Ave Bakery, which sells delicious Asian pastries.

NGUYEN: It's not fun and games for people that have to make a living. So I'm angry.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Under normal circumstances, there would be office workers and tourists walking past her downtown shop. Now there are National Guard outside her boarded-up door. And she and her team, who are all women of color, are afraid to venture out after there was an attack by Trump supporters at a previous protest.

NGUYEN: This couple were just beaten to the ground when they were trying to just walk away. So we're closed next week because we want to avoid unsafe environment. I'm just trying to do what's right for my team, for myself and for our customers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Standing nearby, taking pictures of the extraordinary security measures, are D.C. residents Janine Dunne and Andrew Pingle. He has one word for the dystopian scene.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Janine Dunne says she feels loss.

JANINE DUNNE: I think it is a great shame that, you know, President-elect Biden, who's spent his whole career in service, will not be able to be celebrated - and then hundred years of women voting and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. You know, the fanfare, the celebration, the joy that I want to go out there and be part of - that's been unfortunately taken from us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jane Campbell is the president of the United States Capitol Historical Society. Now, her group would often give tours of this capital city and its monuments to people coming from abroad. She says they would always marvel at how open everything was to the public.

JANE CAMPBELL: There are people who are looking at this level of security that's necessary and saying, what's happening to the stability of American government?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: On Friday, a man was arrested with fake credentials, an unregistered gun and 500 rounds of ammunition trying to get into the cordoned-off area downtown. There is simply no historical precedent for a security operation this size during an inauguration. The concern is that the show of force will not be a display of strength to the world, but rather a sign of something that is very broken here. And after all, what's being defended against? - our fellow Americans. Jane Campbell says the mall in front of Congress will be closed for the first time in modern inaugural history. She hopes public spaces in D.C. will open up again.

CAMPBELL: Because we don't want the Capitol to be a fortress for the privileged few. The Capitol is the people's house.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: But not far away at a Capitol Hill outdoor market, a band was playing, and D.C. residents clapped and swayed.

ERIC VALDES: We're enjoying the beautiful day. Everyone's in great spirits - good music, good food. We're excited.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Eric Valdes was selling Biden and Harris merchandise.

VALDES: What's going to, you know, hurt the most is not being able to be there in the moment, watching it happen. But, you know, through TV and Internet, we'll be able to be there. And we know that, you know, we're all pulling together for better days. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.