An Inauguration Day like no other: Here’s how Coloradans can watch (or participate) on Wednesday

Denver activists plan a counterprotest and a march in anticipation of an unconfirmed right-wing protest

Claire Westcott, of Denver, sits on the Colorado Capitol lawn with her golden retriever, Butter, on Nov. 7, 2020, holding a Biden/Harris sign and taking in the moment. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in on Wednesday amid a global pandemic that has claimed 400,000 American lives and only two weeks after a mob of right-wing extremists emboldened by the sitting president violently breached the U.S. Capitol. 

The swearing-in ceremony will take place on the west front of the U.S. Capitol building around 8:30 a.m. Mountain Standard Time and will be aired on all major broadcast and cable networks as well as on the Biden-Harris Inauguration website. The in-person celebration will be significantly slimmed down due to the pandemic and heightened security concerns after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

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A typical inauguration has 200,000 invited guests and thousands of members of the public gathered on the National Mall, according to an NPR report. This year, it will be closer to 1,000 people, mostly members of Congress and their guests. President Donald Trump will not be in attendance, according to a tweet published on Jan. 8 — the same day Twitter banned him from their platform.

Last week, the FBI warned about “armed protests” being planned at all 50 state capitals in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20. But none have materialized in Colorado, apart from a small group of right-wing protesters that made a brief appearance at Colorado’s Capitol on Jan. 17.

A Denver Police spokesperson would not confirm on Tuesday if police anticipate a right-wing protest to occur on Wednesday. “Nothing has really changed,” she said. “We’re still monitoring, we’re still prepared, we’re still watching and making plans accordingly.” 

Gov. Jared Polis said during a media briefing on Tuesday that he isn’t aware of any planned right-wing protests in Denver.

“There’s a general threat that all 50 state capitols have been apprised of. But we don’t have a specific threat particular to ours,” he said. “We will have the National Guard in reserve ready to respond within minutes if there is the need to in the Denver metro area.” 

Polis added that there will be a visual police presence at the Capitol composed of Denver officers, state troopers and other metro police departments who are working in conjunction with Denver.

At least two events at the Colorado Capitol planned in response to potential right-wing protests

A counterprotest is planned to start at 10:30 a.m. to “oppose the fascist creep and show them their ideology isn’t welcome,” according to a social media post shared by the Denver AntiFascist League on Twitter.

Iris Butler, a Denver-based community organizer, is helping plan a march at 2 p.m. at the east side of the capitol building on Wednesday. She said the threat of violence from right-wing groups isn’t going to stop her or others from “continuing to fight our fight.” 

“This is a great moment to show our community that we don’t tolerate fascism” said Butler, adding that the event also will allow activists and community members to come together and refocus on their shared priorities.

This is a great moment to show our community that we don’t tolerate fascism.”Iris Butler, Denver-based community organizer

“We did pass the SB-217 bill over the summer, but that’s just the beginning,” Butler said, referring to a sweeping police accountability bill signed into law in June. “I don’t want anyone to just think that because we have Biden and our first female vice president that everything’s going to be fixed and everything’s going to be OK. We have to continue to put pressure on our elected officials.”

Butler wasn’t surprised by the insurrection that occurred at the U.S. Capitol. She said for those paying attention, it wasn’t a matter of if but a matter of when. “The fear that white Americans are feeling right now is the same feeling that Black people and people of color have felt every single day,” she said.

Increased presence of law enforcement in the event of right-wing protests doesn’t bring Butler any comfort.

“As a Black queer woman, in my opinion, I’m scared of both of them,” she said. “They’re the same people in my eyes, just in different outfits. Especially after what we saw this summer and especially what we saw on the day that Biden was announced the official winner. So yeah, that doesn’t make me feel better.”

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