A brief security scare caused little upset in Washington DC on Monday, a public holiday, with tensions giving way to an eerie calmness as the city marked Martin Luther King Day, just two days before inauguration.
Most residents of Capitol Hill stayed indoors on Monday amid biting winds and warnings by police of an "external security threat" that was caused by a small fire at a nearby homeless camp.
Those who did venture outside lingered by the fortified security perimeter, where National Guard troops warned people to stay on the other side of the street.
"It's not supposed to be like this," said one woman, who told RFI her family was very familiar with the Capitol because both her children had worked there. "I want to cry ... this should be joyous and uplifting."
At least for now, there is no sign of the million militia marches that threatened to cause major disruption in DC and other cities throughout the United States.
Joe Biden takes the oath of office at noon on Wednesday, he will face a city under the protection of more than 20,000 National Guard soldiers.
Checkpoints and large zones closed to ordinary citizens mean there will be only a smattering of guests.
Similar lockdowns have been imposed at state capitol buildings around the country where local authorities fear provocations from right-wing groups ahead of the inauguration.
No stone unturned
The acting defense secretary said that the military and FBI was vetting the National Guard troopers, who carry automatic weapons, in case any of them posed a threat.
"While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital," the official, Christopher Miller, said.
Biden was marking the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with a trip from his home in Delaware to Philadelphia to perform community service -- a gesture symbolizing his call for Americans to come together after four divisive years.
"Service is a fitting way to start to heal, unite, and rebuild this country we love," Biden said in a video marking the occasion.