Inauguration Day is upon us and I have a few words to share.
Some of you know I was at Trump’s inauguration. I spent January 2017 in New York City and Washington D.C. for a school trip where we met with organizations like The New York Times, NPR, PBS, C-SPAN, Pew Research Center, ProPublica, and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Due to the timing of the trip, we also attended a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade, the Women’s March, and the inauguration. We watched history unfold right in front of us.
I revisit these events now in the wake of an attack on the U.S. Capitol and with Biden’s upcoming inauguration. I’m a bit worried about what could happen in the Capitol based on what I experienced four years ago. On that day four years ago, I sat in the hallway of my hostel attempting to put words to what I’d seen and felt that day. The events of Trump’s presidency have changed how I viewed his inauguration and I want to share again with you what happened in D.C.
(Full disclosure, I wrote a better version of this last week but I accidentally deleted it. So, you get this version instead.)
My nine classmates and I arrived in D.C. about a week before the inauguration. We were there early enough to watch the city fill up with two groups of people. One sporting red MAGA hats and the other wearing pink beanies. You could feel the tension thicken like humidity as we drew closer to Inauguration Day.
We woke up early the morning of the inauguration and walked to the mall. We walked past throngs of civilians, military personnel, and protestors. I recall seeing anti-Trump and anti-fascism signs as well as signs about the environment and pro-life signs with images of bloody babies.
While waiting in line at the first round of security, two opposing groups faced-off around us. One group approached from behind us chanting, “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” The group in front of us turned around from their spot in the security line, shouting, “Build the wall! Build the wall!”
The shouting subsided as we entered the mall and progressed through two more rounds of security. One of which confiscated my unassuming kitty-cat shaped brass knuckles. And if there were ever a day I thought I might need them, it was that day.
We waited for the events to commence while British rock anthems blared through the speakers. I then stood through an unimpressive performance of the National Anthem.
The inauguration itself was quiet and relatively uneventful. I had expected more fanfare and more hooting and hollering but the event truly felt solemn. Watching Obama and Trump shake hands on the steps of the Capitol, I understood how important the peaceful transfer of power was. Two men, ideologically opposed, stood together and passed the presidency from one to the other. It was a powerful moment.
Once the ceremony concluded, inauguration attendees began vacating the mall. Or attempted to. Half our group was stuck inside the mall for the next two hours waiting to cross the parade route.
Meanwhile, the other half of our group, who had made it out of the mall, narrowly avoided being tear-gassed alongside anti-Trump protestors who were blocking the parade route. Only a block from our hostel, a few protestors broke business windows and set a limousine on fire.
We made it back to our hostel an hour or so after our peers and hunkered down together in our hostel room. News and military helicopters flew overhead while white vans filled with arrested protestors passed by on the street below. After having my fill of helicopters and vans and sirens, I sat in the hostel hallway and called my parents. I have no recollection of what time these events occurred or if we even ate that day. The shock of seeing an American city transform into a war zone in one day was a lot.
Over the span of Trump’s presidency, I’ve found myself revisiting these events more often than I expected. Particularly in the months following the 2020 election results.
For those of you living in Portland, you are no stranger to protests, particularly the ones that broke out election night and Inauguration Day in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The people were furious. But alas, votes were recounted and Clinton lost the election.
Following the 2020 election, ballots were recounted in Biden’s favor and Trump refused to admit defeat, incited insurrection, and shared that he would be skipping Biden’s inauguration.
What I witnessed following the 2017 inauguration seemed chaotic and dangerous. This inauguration could be worse. Trump has led his most loyal followers to believe Biden did not win the presidency. This has already resulted in insurrection at the Capitol.
I was infuriated to see the lack of preparation and response from the Capitol Police, especially in contrast to the hundreds of arrests made day-of during Trump’s inauguration. I was even more infuriated to find out some Capitol Police officers assisted the rioters by opening gates and doors, giving them access to the building where Congress was counting electoral votes.
These “patriots” stormed the Capitol with weapons, invaded private offices, took pictures of confidential information, stole federal property, and killed a police officer. If something this dangerous has happened leading up to the inauguration, it seems plausible that something proportionately destructive could be coming.
I don’t write this to create fear, just to adjust expectations based on past events. The tension is even greater than it was four years ago. Things could get worse.
Trump’s election felt ridiculous and unreal four years ago–I guess that’s how you might expect it to seem when a reality television star wins the presidential election. His presidency has proven to be anything but trivial. Continuing to entertain ourselves with outlandish leaders is dangerous. Please use your vote wisely and choose wise leaders, not name-calling, women-shaming, pussy-grabbing, disability-joking, self-absorbed, xenophobic tyrants who live in a reality other than this one. We can do better.
For anyone interested in reading my account of Inauguration Day 2017 that I wrote from the hallway of my D.C. hostel, you can do so here.