D.C. under tight control, but not entirely peaceful

  • The inuaguration of Donald Trump

For the Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, January 26, 2017 11:24AM

Thousands of men and women lined the streets of D.C. on inauguration day last week. Everyone wanted to get a view of the upcoming president of the United States.

When I first walked through the crowds, I was on alert; something was bound to happen. I grew especially nervous after being instructed to write my name and phone number on my arm in case of an emergency. But when I saw the hundreds of police officers, Secret Service, and armed guards at every Metro stop, road block, and security check, I began to relax. I felt enveloped in a big riot shield that spanned across the entire Mall. Even helicopters were making rounds over the crowds that surrounded me.

Everything was secure. I sat for over four hours that morning and from where I was, I saw no protests, no fights, not even a heated argument. Little blurbs of information were played over the huge screens by the Capitol Building. Bands played joyful, patriotic music. Choirs sang beautifully to the audience. Then the introduction ceremony commenced. First came the Clintons, followed by the Bushes. Then came the Obamas, and the vice president-elect. The crowd shouted their opinions of each person who popped up on the Jumbotron; supportive, antagonistic, or otherwise. When Trump’s name was announced, the entire Mall erupted with applause. Everything went smoothly, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas swore in Mike Pence as the 48th vice president of our country. Then, the moment everyone was waiting for – Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States. Cannons fired in the distance. Chants of “USA!” echoed through the throngs of people. One could say the atmosphere was almost hopeful. Trump gave an inaugural speech that emphasized putting the United States first. It’s exactly what the crowd in front of the Capitol wanted to hear.

There was a different mood elsewhere, as I learned when I returned to my hotel. Just a few blocks away from the Mall, violent protesters had taken action. Originally peaceful, the group became angered after their route was blocked by police. About 500 rioters (anti-fascist), dressed all in black, were armed with baseball bats, hammers, crowbars, rocks, and even chunks of cement. Windows were smashed. Flags, barrels of trash, and cars were set on fire. They did anything they could to make a statement. Protesters took cover while armored vehicles pulled up beside them, and dozens of officers ran into the crowds, carrying riot shields, tear gas, concussion grenades, and guns full of pepper spray. Although it was chaotic, most of these demonstrations only lasted a few minutes before being broken up by police. In the end, multiple police officers were injured and over 200 rioters were arrested.

When I look back on it, I was astounded at the sheer contrast of the violent protests compared to the peaceful inauguration I saw just moments before. And here I was, in the safety of my third floor hotel suite, watching the televised mayhem unfold. I started to wonder if I was really safe. The whole situation was ironic. So much hope and so much anger, all in the same place.  Of course, there have been protests like this before; ranging all the way from Lincoln and Jackson to Nixon and now Donald Trump. However, it still begs the question: Can you really call January 20th a “peaceful transition of power”?

Alex Wentworth is a senior at Conant High School.