2021 | News

UPDATED: Bethesda tranquil on day of inauguration

Montgomery County police helping in D.C. for presidential inauguration

The streets of Bethesda were tranquil on Wednesday morning.

Photo by Dan Schere

Bethesda was calm Wednesday morning, as President-elect Joe Biden prepared to take office at noon in Washington, D.C.

A survey by a reporter of areas surrounding Walter Reed National Military Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health campuses in Bethesda found that there was very little traffic, and no major activity.

At the Medical Center Metro Station across from the Walter Reed campus, a few NIH police vehicles were stationed in the parking lot.

Near the Bethesda Metro station in the downtown area, the scene was equally quiet. Hiroaki Nakanishi, a postdoctoral fellow visiting Washington, D.C. from Kyoto University in Japan. Nakanishi said he wanted to be in Washington for the inauguration, as he prepared to take the Metro into D.C.

“I was not invited. I just wanted to share the feeling,” he said.

Nakanishi said his expertise is in nuclear disarmament and that he has not been impressed with President Donald Trump in this area.

“I really hope that Biden can lead in this cause again,” he said.

Police increase presence

Public safety leaders throughout the region are taking additional safety precautions, including in Montgomery County.

Montgomery County police are working with other local and federal law enforcement agencies to “ensure safety in the county during the inauguration,” county police wrote in a statement earlier this week.

“The Department is also collaborating with our local and federal law enforcement partners to ensure that life remains peaceful in the region during the Inauguration,” the statement read.

“A contingency of Montgomery County Police (MCP) officers will be assisting the Metropolitan Police Department as the Department has done for Inaugurations since 2001, and also assisting the Capitol Police Department.  Although we are committed to helping our local, state, and federal partners with assistance regionally, we also will have a robust police presence within Montgomery County.”

Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, a county police spokeswoman, told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday that Montgomery County officers’ role on Wednesday will be at the direction of the other law enforcement agencies. Montgomery County doesn’t want to release more information for security reasons, she said.

“We don’t want people to know the specific number of officers who may be where, what locations, how many officers will be in Montgomery County. It’s a safety concern and we’re not releasing it,” she said.

Normally, Innocenti said, officers help maintain order during the inaugural parade. But there is no parade in person this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted.

“Their roles will be a little bit different. Also, you have the pandemic as well. So, a lot is different about this inauguration than past inaugurations,” she said.

Additionally, in response to the violent insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered National Guard troops into D.C., and has mandated that they stay in the city through the inauguration.

Dozens of Montgomery County police officers were sent to D.C. on Jan. 6 to help keep order after insurrectionists breached the Capitol.

Transportation

There are a number of road closures and service disruptions for transportation networks throughout the region due to the inauguration and increased security concerns stemming from the Capitol siege earlier this month.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced last week that 13 stations in D.C. and Virginia are closed through Thursday. Trains will pass through the empty stations.

Along the Red Line heading into D.C., Farragut North, Metro Center and Gallery Place are among the stations that are closed. A full list of station closures is available on WMATA’s website.

Metrobuses will operate on a Saturday schedule, the transit agency announced last week.

MARC commuter rail has suspended all service through Thursday due to the inauguration.

In Montgomery County, Ride On buses will run on their regular weekday schedule, Hannah Henn, a spokeswoman for the county’s transportation department, said on Tuesday.

“We do have standby buses and operators in case any additional requests for services or emergency need arise,” she said.

For drivers, Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bethesda will be closing four of its five gates on Wednesday for vehicles, leaving only Gate 1 open, according to an announcement on its website.

Gate 1 is also open to pedestrians and bicyclists. Gate 2 is open only to pedestrians.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com