Wednesday, July 28, 2021
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OPINION: Inauguration security dissuaded protests and toxified the atmosphere in D.C.

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On Jan. 6, far-right rioters stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., set up gallows outside the building, broke windows, feverishly searched for congresspeople whom they disagreed with and beat up cops and security guards that got in their way. All this resulted in the death of five people.

Soon after the first storming, conversations began to be held on the social media platform Parler by extremists plotting a second siege on Inauguration Day. As countermeasures were taken in D.C. in preparation for another incursion, those conversations started to peter out. An inside source who infiltrated forums held by the far-right group, the Proud Boys, told The Wittenberg Torch that following the deployment of the National Guard, members of the group began backing out.

Ethan Bochicchio (’23) stands in front of a barricade in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. Photo courtesy Ethan Bochicchio (’23).

The Capitol Building was surrounded by fencing in the days leading up to inauguration. Parts of the city were shut down, including the bridges that connect Washington D.C. to West Virginia, and more than 20,000 National Guard troops were deployed. Dozens of checkpoints were established, stopping and searching cars that drove through them. While it was reported in various news outlets that two zones had been designated for protests, the parks that they were set to take place in were blocked off by the National Guard. The city also closed houseless encampments, forcing some to relocate outside of the perimeter.

The security problems with the far-right became marginal though they did not disappear. 12 guardsmen were removed from their posts prior to Inauguration Day, with at least two for having potential ties to far-right groups. Several people were arrested for impersonating police officers in an attempt to breach the perimeter and one individual was arrested for attempting to enter the city with multiple firearms.

Ultimately, the hyper-militarization of the nation’s capital succeeded in dissuading protesters from either the left or the right from showing up on Inauguration Day. Press far outnumbered civilians, only around half of whom delineated their political beliefs through their clothing, flags or signs. A group of religious fanatics with signs decrying homosexuality and abortion set up shop in front of Union Station, attracting vitriol and denunciation from some passing by.

But more noticeable than the small number of unsavory encounters that took place was the lack of action that defined much of the space surrounding the perimeter established by the National Guard. An overwhelming number of soldiers marched as police and army vehicles patrolled the streets. The barbed wire fence could be heard rattling against a light breeze. Unhoused individuals held comparable numbers to politically motivated individuals who came to the perimeter that day.

An overcast sky blocked out the sun as the day went on. Numbers grew, though only to the hundreds on NW New Jersey Ave., where a clear view of the Capitol could be seen. A small contingent of the religious fanatics split off to make their presence felt in the gathering on New Jersey. A group of six or seven activists calling for an end to deportations led chants while holding a banner. With the slight growing of the crowd, the small police contingent was replaced with a slew of riot police, most of them behind a barrier, though some of them mixed in with the crowd. Despite the lack of a protest, let alone a riot, around the corner another group of riot police stood ready to strike.

Protestors against Trump and Biden converged beyond the police barricade. Photo by Ethan Bochicchio (’23).

Press covered anything that they could from the radical religious fanatics, to two kids who had Biden flags and to people who brought out their dogs. One excited reporter could be heard on his way to NW New Jersey Ave. telling a live stream that left wing and right-wing protesters were clashing; only to find that nothing of the sort had taken place all day. 

Noticing that absurdity attracted attention, the actions of some individuals became increasingly broad. A woman in her underwear and a fur tie-dye coat put on a Biden mask and wandered around with a spool of string as she was followed by people with cameras. Famous YouTuber, All Gas No Brakes, showed up, getting people to do ridiculous things on camera. A few people on bikes and electric skateboards zoomed through the crowd, going back and forth, succeeding in attracting the attention of the many bored journalists.

The eerie atmosphere seemed to serve as omen for the return to neoliberalism engendered in the Biden-Harris presidency. The interests of the unhoused will be put behind the interests of security. The individual will seek actualization through the approval of others. Religious extremism will grow in the absence of economic opportunity. Millions will be spent on the state’s capacity for violence. While the United States averted a fascist takeover on Jan. 6, neoliberalism will still present significant challenges to the realization of democracy, peace and prosperity.  

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1 COMMENT

  1. Well rendered writing and observation, thank you. In some ways the lack of dramatic events may not have been what a journalist is designed to report on, but the trauma in that city needed to be recognized and calmed down. I think that was the case, as terrible as a lock down of that magnitude was on a day in which we celebrate our democracy.

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