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Biden inauguration: Smiles, soldiers and the blowing of a shofar as DC bids farewell to Donald Trump

Andrew Buncombe
·5-min read
America will soon have a new president  (Getty Images)
America will soon have a new president (Getty Images)

Donna Goghill had her coffee to go, and a spring in her step.

Was she excited about the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris? Indeed, she was.

“I'm glad Trump is getting out, and Biden and my lady are coming in. And let’s get this thing off to a good start. Because what happened on January 6 was a disgrace to the nation,” she said. “Tomorrow is not going to be like usual inaugurations. But it’s an inauguration, so ‘Hi Biden’ and ‘Hi Kamala’. Let’s do this.”

Washington DC, or at least that quadrant of the city visited and experienced by most visitors, is not known for the ease with which it spontaneously voices expressions of joy. Too many government workers fearful of speaking out of turn. Too many lobbyists marching down K Street. A lot of people, in short, who don’t like to be interviewed.

Yet, on Tuesday, as the sun came out to shine on locals, visitors and the thousands of soldiers on watch along Constitution Ave, there were plenty of people glad to share their pleasure that the wheel of politics was turning.

A 35-year-old woman, who asked not to be identified, was taking her lunchtime walk. The city certainly felt strange, she said, and cold even, given the levels of security.

Donna Goghill was happy to see the back of Donald TrumpAndrew Buncombe
Donna Goghill was happy to see the back of Donald TrumpAndrew Buncombe

However, she was looking forward to the nation returning to a level of normalcy. “These last four years have been very draining,” she said. “I am not sure how I’d have dealt with another four years.”

While there were some who muttered about the cost and inconvenience, created by the huge security operation, others said it made them feel safe.

A 27-year-old woman, originally from California and who moved to the city earlier this month, said she usually ran along the National Mall. The presence of the steel fences shutting off access to places such as the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial, was forcing her to tweak her jogging route, but she certainly felt safe.

Four years ago, the young woman, who asked to be identified by her initials CW, voted for Donald Trump, and said she believed he would have been reelected had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic. It was his mishandling of it that made her vote for Mr Biden in November.

As she spoke, the death toll from the pandemic in America passed 400,000, almost seven times the number of US troops killed in the Vietnam War. The nearby memorial to the war was also off-limits to the public.

“The biggest problem for Biden will be handling the pandemic and the fallout from it,” she said.

A couple aged in their 70s, a woman and her husband who asked to be identified as residents of DC, said they felt the level of security was necessary given what happened two weeks ago, when hundreds of Trump supporters had stormed the US Capitol, urged on by the president, as members of the House and Senate sought to affirm the electoral college votes of Mr Biden.

“We’re happy that there is a change,” said the woman. “I hope there can be a restoration of things and a repair of the damage that had been done.”

And did they think Americans might start to have conversations once again with people with political differences? “It is hard. I think it will be very hard to repair things, especially given social media.”

President Trump, president for one final day, was not without his supporters either, though there appeared to be few MAGA hats or T-shirts on display.

One Trump fan who was trying to maintain a low profile but failing, was Cathy Brown, a 55-year-old hair stylist from San Angelo, Texas. She was part of a church group of four, who had come to pray in support of peace.

They had brought with them two ram’s horns, or shofars, traditionally used in Jewish religious ceremonies, but that are also used by some evangelical Christians. How were they going about praying for peace?

“We just pray as we walk, and blow the shofar,” she said. “You don’t need a church.”

Ms Brown said she felt somewhat uneasy revealing herself to be a Trump supporter in the city, which she said “hated him”. Asked about whether they felt the election was fair, all four said it was not.

Asked about the riot at the Capitol by supporters of the president, one of Ms Browns’ friends said she believed it was antifa. When told the FBI had said there was no evidence that antifa was involved, Ms Brown said: “I think there was some antifa and that some of our people got caught up.”

And how did she score Mr Trump’s presidency. She smiled. “Ten out of ten.”

Donna Goghill, the woman with the coffee and the smile, did not agree. Rather she was pleased the president was down to his very final hours and that the countdown was almost over.

Did she believe the nation would have seen the last of the president when he headed to Florida as Mr Biden was inaugurated?

“Oh, no, I think he's still got some things planned,” she said. “Because he's that type, he's a sore loser. He doesn’t want to get out, he’d hate to be without power.”

She added: “Pass the torch. It’s over, Trump. Get out.”

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