Joe Biden became the 46th U.S. president on Wednesday in a barricaded city, guarded by more than 25,000 troops and emptied of the spectators who usually throng to the quadrennial ritual.
The unprecedented precautions, which fenced off much of downtown Washington, ensured that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took their oaths of office at 11:48 a.m. EST (1648 GMT) free of incident.
“This is the day when our democracy picks itself up, brushes off the dust and does what America always does -- goes forward as a nation,” Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said as the ceremony began.
Some right-wing extremist groups had vowed to disrupt Biden’s inauguration in the wake of a Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Analysts said few signs of an organized plot had emerged, though the threat of violence by radicalized individuals remained a concern.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, outgoing President Donald Trump left the White House for the final time, his helicopter flying over thousands of American and state flags planted in the National Mall. The banners stood in for the hundreds of thousands of people who gathered for past inaugurations to watch the proceedings on big-screen televisions.
A handful of visitors lingered outside Union Station, the city’s normally bustling train terminal. “I’m looking forward to some change and cautiously optimistic,” said Victor Duran, 22, a student from Dallas.
National Guard troops, carrying rifles, stood behind razor-wire topped fencing that sealed off Capitol Hill. Motorcades carrying VIPs sped past.
A small group of protesters stood outside the perimeter. “If Joe Biden wants to take America to hell, go right ahead!” one shouted through a bullhorn.