PHOTOS: An inauguration unlike any other amid pandemic, nationwide unrest

Inauguration Day

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The coronavirus pandemic and threat of potentially armed protests made the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president one of the most unusual in American history.

But there were comforting signs of tradition in the hallowed American rite that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol, which was battered by violent riots just two weeks ago.

Some 200,000 American, state and territorial flags were planted on the National Mall to represent people who could not attend because of COVID-19, which has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States. In past inaugurations, the Capitol was packed with thousands trying to witness history.

This year, VIPs were seated several feet apart, and they wore facial masks to prevent the spread of the virus. Biden’s face was covered with a mask except for when he spoke.

Former presidents and first ladies attended the ceremony including Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and George W. and Laura Bush.

Traditional celebrations were taken online due to the pandemic. Biden has inherited leadership of a country with more than 24.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases.

Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation’s most familiar landmarks.

There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden’s inauguration ceremony.

After the deadly riots that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation’s capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. Checkpoints were set up at intersections.

Across the country, state capitols increased security, calling in the National Guard and halting legislative sessions.

The National Park Service and the Secret Service shut down the National Mall from last Friday through Thursday, and access to the Washington Monument was closed for two weeks.

Former President Donald Trump opted not to attend the ceremony. He was sent off with a departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before traveling to Florida, where he’ll begin his post-presidency at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. The farewell event included a red carpet, a military band and a 21-gun salute.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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