RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia’s Capitol building and surrounding area were “eerily quiet” on inauguration day, after local authorities braced for potential political violence threatened by pro-Trump extremist groups at state capitols nationwide.
At the same hour that the political winds in Washington D.C. shifted, 100 miles south Jim Anderson said he was glad to bike into a calm, sparse downtown Richmond near historic Capitol Square.
“Yeah, it was nice to see that,” Anderson said. “I think it shows that things are falling into place. The inauguration, as far as I know, is going off without a hitch, and things are quiet here. Nobody is in jeopardy; people are respecting the building and the institution.”
Virginia’s Capitol grounds remained closed to the public and barricades surrounding several blocks, although police drew back some of the road closures that were in place earlier in the week. The barricades meant Dr. Priyanka Patel had to take a 15-minute detour on her walk to work at VCU Medical Center.
“I had to walk to the hospital, I had to get there by 6:30 a.m.,” said Dr. Patel, who usually cuts through Capitol grounds. “Just a nice sunny day. No one’s out, which is kind of surprising, but relieving.”
The inauguration of a new administration is always a historic moment in America, but Vice President Kamala Harris is now the first woman, as well as Black and Asian American woman, to hold the office.
“As an Indian woman it’s exciting for us. I think it gives little girls hope. It’s a nice change for sure,” Dr. Patel said.
Although threats of violence in Richmond did not materialize, the deep-seated political division in America that even brought them remains a reality the Biden-Harris administration must confront. Although their ticket won Virginia decidedly, nearly two million Virginians voted for former-president Trump last fall.
Both Anderson and Dr. Patel said while one ceremony will not change that dynamic, they are hopeful Wednesday marks the beginning of a new course for political discourse.
“I couldn’t agree any more with anybody who preaches unity and peace. Absolutely,” Anderson said. “Let’s use the institution that we have in place. That’s the best vehicle we have in order to get things done.”
“We go through presidents, there’s not always big changes. There’s always talk, but I want to see what happens. I’m curious. I want to see how coronavirus is handled; I want to see how our nation is handled; so, I’m hopeful, but I’m curious,” Dr. Patel said.