Everything we saw in a deserted Washington D.C. during Joe Biden’s inauguration week


The 2021 Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris was different from every previous inaugural in many ways — just one being the near-absence of the general public. Viewing it from behind the TV screen, we saw plenty of members of government, but no cheering crowds on the Mall, no well-wishers packing the streets — and, the whole point of the locked-down festivities, not a lot of anti-Biden protesters or rioters. (Although there were a couple of attention-hungry Trump supporters on hand.)

But photographer Dave Decker went to D.C. to document the Inauguration and found plenty that we weren't able to see. "The words that came to mind when I entered D.C. were: barren, dystopian, occupied and threatened," he says. "The streets were empty. You could park wherever you wanted unchecked, because the parking authorities were shut down completely. One resident told me that the city had not been that empty since 9/11."

Most media was shut out, so reporters doing live spots were everywhere. And of course, the law enforcement presence was heavy, from military to Homeland Security to police officers. "While most can agree that such a strong showing of force was an overuse of government resources, the people I spoke to seemed to feel it was necessary to send a message to those who aspired to return and commit acts of violence. So for myself and a vast majority of international media the story became about the lack of people due to the pandemic and a heightened national security threat," Decker says.

"As a result we turned the cameras on the soldiers, the police and ourselves."

Some citizens of the District turned out; so did Americans from all over the country, even if they weren't able to get up close. "Surprisingly, with limited numbers the streets did light up with small groups of people," Decker says. "This is what I saw."—Jessica Bryce Young

Editor's note: After witnessing the Jan. 6 insurrection, Tampa photographer Dave Decker knew he needed to be in Washington D.C. when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn into office at Wednesday's inauguration. So he drove up to the nation's capital on Monday and left on Thursday morning. He—like dozens of other media outlets—was denied access to the National Mall and pretty much all of the inauguration parade route, but Decker just pointed his lens at the deserted city, those around him (less than a handful of MAGA chuds showed up) and soaked it in with the more than 20,000 National Guard troops deployed. Here are photos from Monday and Tuesday.—Ray Roa

01/18/2021 | Photos by Dave Decker