At One East Side Restaurant, A 'Feeling Of Relief' On Inauguration Day
The streets in downtown Austin and around the state Capitol were quiet Wednesday as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as president and vice president of the United States.
The Austin Police Department said there were "no known threats" in the city on Inauguration Day but that officers would be on tactical alert — meaning all officers would be in uniform and ready to go for crowd control.
"[We] support people being able to come out and assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech," APD Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon said Tuesday, "and what we want to do is create a safe space for them to be able to do that."
At EastSide Tavern around noon, assistant manager Sarah Espinosa put on what she called a "girl power" playlist of music to listen to while watching the ceremony.
"It is an amazing day. I mean, it's history," she said. "We have our first female vice president — and female of color."
"It's really nice because little girls everywhere can, you know, little girls of color can say, 'I can do this one day,'" her friend Taylor Malray, who was seated at the bar, said. "They have the representation now."
Espinosa said the day had an air of calm that felt so different from two weeks ago, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
"It just has this feeling of relief," she said, adding that she was hopeful change was coming with the new administration.
"It's definitely been really hard and different being an essential worker during a pandemic," she said. "So many places that we love have been closed down, hours have been cut, jobs have been cut ... and we haven't really had a lot of assistance from the government."
Austin is still under stage 5 of its risk guidelines to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. At this level, residents are urged to avoid all gatherings outside of their homes, and businesses are asked to operate only through curbside and delivery. Austin Public Health reported 834 new cases of COVID-19 in Travis County on Tuesday.
The pandemic, rainy weather and security measures likely contributed to the quiet calm across the city.
The Texas Department of Public Safety closed the Capitol building and grounds Saturday after reports of potential demonstrations by armed extremists. DPS said it plans to keep them closed through Wednesday.