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The Inauguration of Joe Biden refers to the 59th presidential inauguration ceremony where Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the U.S. with Kamala Harris as vice president, marking the commencement of their four-year term. The ceremony took place in Washington, D.C. on January 20th, 2021, during a time of political and public turmoil following outgoing President Donald Trump’s untraditional absence from the event shortly after the storming of the Capitol by his supporters earlier that month, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Festivities and gatherings were largely absent from the ceremony due to the pandemic as well as civil unrest following the Capitol riots, with a large presence from law enforcement and National Guard members to mitigate the potential of violence.
On January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the U.S. alongside Kamala Harris who took the vice-presidential oath of office. The event was largely different from previous presidential inaugurations due to a combination of COVID-19 public health concerns and the storming of the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump in D.C. two weeks earlier, resulting in increased security.
While the outgoing president is traditionally in attendance during the transition of power, Trump was absent from the ceremony, though his VP Mike Pence was present. Other notable attendees of the event included former presidents Barack Obama, George Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as performances from Lady Gaga, who sang the National Anthem, Jennifer Lopez, Tim McGraw, Tyler Hubbard and others who are slated to appear at Biden's “Celebrating America” special.
COVID-19 and Security Concerns
Leading up to the ceremony on January 20th, which took place on the West Front of the Capitol, the surrounding area of the National Mall was shut down leading up to the event after the Capitol riots two weeks prior. Security was significantly increased with barriers, razor wire, roadblocks and other measures implemented ahead of the inauguration. On the day of the ceremony, D.C. hosted a significant presence from members of the National Guard and Capitol police, hoping to dissuade the potential of violence near the Capitol.
While the inauguration ceremony typically attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees to D.C., this year's event only permitted about 2,000 people because of COVID-19 concerns. The night before the event, Biden and Harris also spoke at a memorial for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic near the Lincoln Memorial. In place of the usual crowds of attendees at the inauguration, Biden's committee installed around 200,000 American flags around the National Mall to represent the people who were unable to attend. Other measures included the required wearing of masks, social distancing guidelines and a shift of the parade to an online format.
Bernie Sanders Meme Jacket and Mittens
During the inauguration, Bernie Sanders made an appearance wearing a set of knitted mittens and the jacket seen in his I Am Once Again Asking for Your Financial Support meme in early January 2020. The images of Sanders quickly went viral that day and became a trending topic on Twitter as the photo of him sitting alone in a chair (due to social distancing measures) became an exploitable image macro where users photoshopped him into various scenes or captioned the original (shown below).
Soon after his appearance, numerous memes referencing the image began popping up online across social media. One such example was posted by Twitter user TheAlanJohnson that same day pointing out the jacket from the meme, which received over 62,600 likes and 8,500 retweets in three hours (seen below, left). Instagram user newyorknico then posted a series of photoshopped images using the original, receiving over 57,400 likes in one hour (seen below, right).
Lady Gaga’s Dress
Similar to Sanders' fashion that went viral in the wake of the inauguration coverage, Lady Gaga's flashy dress also became a common topic and source of meme material on January 20th. Due to the flamboyant design, which was adorned with a large gold bird, images of Gaga's dress became exploitables used in various photoshops with captions that spread across the web (shown below).
A particular theme among these memes was the likeness of Gaga’s outfit to the fashion seen in The Hunger Games films. One such example was tweeted by Twitter user PopeChromaticus that day, which received over 4,500 likes and 550 retweets in two hours (seen below, left). Another version was posted by Instagram meme page shitheadsteve, receiving over 24,100 likes in one hour (seen below, right).