United States – Deserted, grid, caulked: Washington under high tension

To prevent any overflow, more than 20,000 soldiers are expected in the streets of the federal capital at the time of Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony on January 20.

The National Guard, a domestic military force, now protects downtown Washington. (Photo ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)


Concrete blocks, police beacons, national guards in fatigues and armed … security is maximum Wednesday afternoon in downtown Washington, where the House of Representatives voted in favor of a second historic “impeachment” of Donald Trump.

Ghost town for several months following the health and economic crises and then anti-racist demonstrations, the federal capital is now the reflection of a country on edge, still shaken by the events of January 6 at the Capitol.

The National Guard, an internal military force, now protects the premises with armed men, bulletproof vests and combat uniform. The elected representatives of the House of Representatives decided there on Wednesday afternoon to indict the Republican president, the second of his term.

Striking images, hundreds of soldiers spent the night inside the Congress building, still sleeping on the floor in the rooms and corridors even as elected officials arrived.

More than 20,000 soldiers are expected in the streets of the city at the time of Joe Biden’s investiture ceremony on January 20; more than the combined number of US troops officially present in Afghanistan and Iraq today.

The Capitol is surrounded by a security fence, just like the White House since last spring and the demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd, a symbol of police brutality against black Americans.

Washington, federal capital which has become a vibrant metropolis of more than 700,000 inhabitants in recent years, bears the scars of the successive crises of the past twelve months.

While wandering there these days, it is difficult to distinguish the boards of restaurants closed by the pandemic from those of buildings protecting themselves from violence.

“It’s the first time I’ve been (to downtown Washington) in over a year, and usually there are people everywhere. It’s very, very quiet. I almost think that (the city) is just a shadow of itself, ”says Jaime, a mother from Maryland who did not want to give her name.

Schoolchildren who came from all over the country to visit American institutions now stay at home, as do foreign tourists. The ball of officials and lobbyists in suits and ties in the streets of downtown is also over.

The platforms of the impressive tubular concrete metro stations are also depopulated.

“The city is essentially deserted,” says Nadine Seiler, 55, who has been demonstrating every day since the end of October near the White House, in favor of anti-racist causes.

“All that is over”

As in the rest of Western countries, the trend in the city is to telecommute. Museums, free Washington institutions, have also been closed since March.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has also recently widened the restrictions so that restaurants can no longer serve indoor customers. Rare more or less sophisticated terraces have thus sprung up along the sidewalks to adapt to the new situation.

“The Christmas market (…), the crowded bars, all that is over,” laments Timothy Bartholomew, a resident of Arlington, a town near the state of Virginia.

According to the specialized site Eater, nearly 70 restaurants have already had to permanently close their doors in Washington since the start of the pandemic, and it is common to see wooden planks stuck to windows.

The increase in economic precariousness is also palpable in the streets with the lengthening of queues at soup kitchens, or the proliferation of tents for the homeless around the main boulevards of the city center.

The spring anti-racist rallies also transformed the center of the capital.

Protesters now meet at every event on one of the main thoroughfares leading to the White House, renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza” by Democratic City Hall, with “Black Lives Matter” written on it. the ground in giant yellow letters.

It has become a place of walking but also of celebrations. This is where Washingtonians, overwhelmingly committed to the Democratic Party, loudly came to celebrate Joe Biden’s victory in the November 3 election.


Posted today at 03:41

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