News and Commentary

Biden’s Inaugural Parade Canceled, Replaced With Virtual Version

Virtual parade will include “musical acts, local bands, poets, dance troupes"
US President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama talk on the East steps of the US Capitol after inauguration ceremonies on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

There won’t be a lengthy debate this Jan. 21 over whether Democrat Joe Biden drew more people to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for his inauguration than his predecessor.

The reason: Biden’s big party will be virtual.

Biden’s inaugural parade has been canceled to limit crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers announced the decision on Sunday, saying that a “virtual parade across America” will be held instead.

Usually, hundreds of thousands of people pack the Mall and line Pennsylvania Avenue for 16 blocks, all the way from the Capitol to the White House. The new president and vice president proceed in a motorcade along the broad boulevard, and often jump out of their limousines for a block or two to wave to those gathered.

But not this year. Gathering of groups of people are severely restricted in D.C. and after debate, Biden’s organizers decided to call the whole thing off. Instead, the inaugural committee is urging Americans not to travel to Washington for the event and is instead calling for smaller celebrations across the country.

“The parade will celebrate America’s heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions, and reflect on the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country as we begin a new American era,” the inaugural committee said in a press release. The committee plans to announce participants in coming days.

The committee also said the “virtual parade” will feature “the iconic images of a new president, a new vice president and their families making their way to the White House” along with “musical acts, local bands, poets, dance troupes and more paying homage to America’s heroes on the front lines of the pandemic.”

“Following the swearing-in ceremony on the west front of the US Capitol, Biden and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, will join Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband in participating in a socially distanced Pass in Review on the Capitol’s opposite front side. Those are military traditions where Biden will review the readiness of military troops,” CNN reported.

“Pass in Reviews are a long-standing military tradition that reflect the peaceful transfer of power to a new Commander-in-Chief, during which the President-elect, hosted by the Commander of Joint Task Force-National Capital Region, will review the readiness of military troops. Every branch of the military will be represented in this event,” the committee said. Participants will practice social distancing and there will be “vigorous health and safety protocols in place,” according to the committee.

Then, Biden is expected to deliver an address to the nation flanked by a pared-down gathering of government officials and dignitaries,” The New York Times reported.

But it’s still unclear what will happen when Biden and Harris leave the Capitol en route to the White House.

Workers had begun constructing viewing stands in front of the White House and in the nearby Freedom Plaza, but they began dismantling the stands after the committee called off the parade.

On Jan. 21, 2017, the day after Trump was inaugurated, White House press secretary Sean Spicer blasted the media for “deliberately false reporting” that claimed Trump’s crowd was smaller than President Obama’s crowd.

“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall,” Spicer claimed.

But no one knows for sure. The National Park Service, which once announced crowd estimates, stopped doing so after being sued for estimating the crowd size at the Million Man March in 1995 drew just 400,000.

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