D.C. inauguration rehearsal interrupted by security alert, nearby fire

By Jean Lotus
Preparations continue at the National Mall ahead of the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C., on January 19. Pool Photo by Susan Walsh/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Inauguration rehearsals in Washington, D.C., were interrupted and the U.S. Capitol was locked down Monday after a nearby fire caused a temporary security alert.

The U.S. Secret Service said in an announcement that the Capitol complex was shut down "out of an abundance of caution" in response to "a small fire in the area of 1st and F streets SE."


The fire was at the site of a nearby homeless encampment. There was no threat to the public, the agency said.

At the Capitol, the emergency alert was issued just as a dress rehearsal for the swearing-in of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris was about to begin. Participants for the event, which took place outdoors, were rushed back into the building.

"External security threat, no entry or exit is permitted, stay away from exterior windows, doors. If outside, seek cover," the alert said, according to Baltimore's WJZ.

When the threat was cleared, rehearsals resumed.

The actual inauguration will take place Wednesday on the West front of the U.S. Capitol building at noon, EST. After the two elected officials take their oaths of office, Biden will deliver an inaugural address. Most of the events will be virtual this year, because of the pandemic and security threats after the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob on Jan. 6.


The ceremony will include performances by Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez.

"Celebrating America," a 90-minute live special, will air Wednesday evening and will feature remarks from Biden and Harris, as well as tributes to COVID-19 first responders. Tom Hanks will host and Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Jon Bon Jovi and Ant Clemons with perform.

On Wednesday afternoon, the oaths of office will be followed by the Pass In Review on the East front of the building with members of the military, which is the traditional ceremony for the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander-in-chief.

As Biden's first action as commander-in-chief, the newly sworn-in team, military leaders and first spouses will travel to Arlington National Cemetery, where they will lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The new president and vice president will then accompany a military escort to the White House.

President Donald Trump will break with tradition and not be present at the White House to welcome the new team, nor will he attend the inauguration. He has announced he will leave Washington, D.C., at 8 a.m. for his Florida Mar-a-Lago estate.


Afterward, the "Parade Across America" will be a combination live and virtual event with drum lines from Biden and Harris's alma maters -- the University of Delaware and Howard University.

The New Radicals will reunite for the first time in 22 years to perform a song that was a favorite of the late Beau Biden, which has meaning for the Biden family.

The parade will be hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn. Viewers can expect appearances by Jon Stewart, Earth Wind and Fire, Nile Rodgers, Kathy Sledge and more.

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