Biden, Harris take break from inaugural prep to mark MLK day

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — United States (US) President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris pitched in on Martin Luther King Jr Day service projects as a militarised and jittery Washington prepared for a swearing-in that will play out under extraordinary security.

Biden and his wife Jill joined an assembly line in the parking lot of Philabundance, an organisation that distributes food to people in need, and helped fill about 150 boxes with fresh fruit and nonperishables.

As Biden and Harris took breaks from their inaugural preparations to honour the civil rights hero on Monday, outgoing US President Donald Trump remained out of public view at the White House for the sixth straight day. In past years, Trump has marked the holiday with unannounced visits to the King memorial in Washington.

Such a visit would have been complicated because Washington has become a fortress city of roadblocks and barricades before today’s inauguration, as security officials work to avoid more violence following the January 6 riot by a pro-Trump mob at the US Capitol.

In a measure of how nervous the capital city has become, US Capitol Police on Monday briefly locked down the Capitol complex and paused inaugural rehearsals after fire broke out at a nearby homeless encampment.

Biden transition officials, including incoming Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall and the deputy attorney general nominee, Lisa Monaco, held a videoconference with acting heads and career staff from national security agencies to discuss the security situation surrounding Inauguration Day.

Harris played down any personal security concerns, saying she’s “very much looking forward to being sworn in”.

US President-elect Joe Biden participates in a National Day of Service event at Philabundance, a hunger relief organisation, with his daughter Ashley Biden, and his granddaughter Finnegan Biden. PHOTO: AP