In earlier times, the inauguration was a celebration that turned Washington, DC, into a party town, regardless of which side had won. The idea of being a passerby and watching the inaugural parade was already threatened this year by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many of the traditional parties that accompany the transfer of presidential power. Right now, no one except vetted guests and select members of the media are getting anywhere close to the festivities, leading to a surreal feeling of a made-for-TV democracy, something that can be performed on a soundstage and beamed into your home.
It’s still unsettling to see the country’s capital so locked down. The current show of extreme force makes sense in the wake of the storming of the Capitol building two weeks ago, and security for past events with world leaders was already pretty tight. Blocks of downtown DC have turned into a maze of road closures that is increasingly hard to navigate as the Secret Service sets up checkpoints and security clearance zones. Waterways are patrolled by boat, drones are forbidden in the skies, and the streets are empty as residents hunker down. Photographer Greg Kahn explored the streets of Washington, DC, for BuzzFeed News ahead of Inauguration Day.