Inauguration Planning after the Riots

The National Mall filled with a "Field of Flags"

The Inauguration will take place Wednesday, January 20, 2021, 12PM. In the aftermath of the insurrection on January 6, 2021, you asked several questions:

1. What’s supposed to happen?

On Wednesday, January 20 at noon, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take the Oath of Office on the steps of the Capitol. This is the same building where the riots took place last week. Things will get started at about 11:30am and can be seen here.

2. What security measures are being taken?

3. What happens if things go wrong?

Unfortunately, there’s still concern about attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s election. Although many sources of disinfo have been removed from social media, there are still places online for people to share messages coordinating plans to cause problems.

In the unlikely event that Biden is killed before he can take office, there are plenty of provisions in place. If Biden dies, Harris is sworn in; if both die, Pelosi becomes the President. All of this is highly unlikely, especially considering the heightened security at the Capitol, but it’s important to remember that there’s a plan for every situation.

4. What about the Insurrection Act, or martial law?

The Insurrection Act lets the President call in the military to suppress violence. There are rumors that Trump has “signed the Insurrection Act.” They are not true. It was invoked in 1989 when there was looting in the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Hugo, and again in 1992 during the Rodney King unrest. It’s nowhere to be found in 2021.

“Martial law” is a sort of scary term that has no legal definition. It’s used to imply that the President is going to deploy the military in a coup. So far there’s no evidence that Trump (or Biden, for that matter) have any plans to do this.


If you’d like to fact check this piece or learn more about these topics, these are the references we used to put this explainer together.

2021 Inaugural Schedule. Accessed January 19, 2021.
USA Today. January 19, 2021. Few people, thousands of flags, massive security: Surreal photos of Washington D.C. before inauguration.
USA Today. January 17, 2021. ‘No stone unturned’: All 25K National Guard troops for Biden’s inauguration to undergo extra vetting. 
Washington Post. January 18, 2021. ‘No stone unturned’: Pentagon vows to vet National Guard for extremist ties ahead of inauguration.
WTOP News. January 17, 2021. FAQs: 2021 inauguration plans after Capitol riot, amid pandemic.
NPR. January 9, 2021. As Inauguration Nears, Concern Of More Violence Grows.
Interactive Constitution, 20th Amendment. Presidential Term and Succession, Assembly of Congress. Accessed January 19, 2021.
Politifact. January 11, 2021. Fact-checking claims about the Insurrection Act, martial law after Capitol riot.