In contrast to the typical crowds and celebrations that usually mark Inauguration Day for the Georgetown University community and Washington, D.C. residents, the District saw deserted streets and a large National Guard presence following the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.
Heightened security procedures reflected concern for further violence after a rally in support of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6. After demonstrators from the rally stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempted coup, the university was forced to adapt as the events unfolded, planning ahead to ensure community members were kept out of harm’s way.
University officials closely monitored information about the riots as the day developed, according to a university spokesperson.
“When we become aware of situations in the region, our first priority is the safety of all of our Georgetown community members,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Internal planning and coordination meetings across all Georgetown DC campuses took place before the planned event and continued both during and post event as the situation evolved.”
In anticipation of the inauguration, the National Mall and many downtown streets were blocked off from the public as outlined by the public access map released by the U.S. Secret Service. Other safety measures included screening people entering the downtown area, blocking off bridges and closing parking garages. About 25,000 National Guard troops assisted state and local law enforcement in their efforts to ensure a smooth inaugural ceremony.
The university prepared for the inauguration by cooperating across campus agencies, according to the spokesperson.
“GUPD and University officials will continue to coordinate with representatives across campus and remain prepared to respond with any circumstances that arise in relation to the presidential inauguration in the coming weeks,” the spokesperson wrote.
Georgetown students also changed their plans in response to the new security measures and unrest. In past years, attending a presidential inauguration has been a Georgetown tradition. In 2017, students watched from the National Mall as Trump was inaugurated, witnessing both supporters gather and protests erupt. Given the limitations on attendance, however, students were forced to stay home this year.
Missing the inauguration was disappointing but warranted, according to Katherine Gage (COL ’24), who lives off campus.
“I was upset that I didn’t get to go to the inauguration because I feel like it’s a rite of passage as a Georgetown student, but considering the circumstances, it was probably for the best that I didn’t go,” Gage said in an interview with The Hoya.
Political unrest brought a new sense of alarm to life in the District, according to Elise Gallentine (COL ’23), another off-campus student, who shifted her travel plans to return to D.C. after the inauguration.
“As a student living in DC, I was nervous for my return before the semester began,” Gallentine wrote in a message to The Hoya. “Although the National Guard was stationed in neighborhoods close to me, it created an aura of fear around the upcoming presidential inauguration.”
Comparisons of the police response to Black Lives Matter protests this summer and the riots at the Capitol highlight a double standard, according to D.C. Councilmember Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4).
“We saw several federal law enforcement agencies crack down on nonviolent Black Lives Matter protesters with tear gas, flash bangs, and rubber bullets at Lafayette Square,” George said in a statement to Buzzfeed News. “Meanwhile, the violent extremists who rushed the Capitol today met little resistance.”
Some businesses continue to take security measures not required or advised by city authorities. Boards in front of businesses’ windows should be taken down, according to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“DC, let go of your boards. If you know a business that still has boards up, please remind them to pull them down,” Bowser wrote in a Jan. 27 tweet.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders have condemned Trump’s incitement of the insurrection, which led to five fatalities. More than 100 people have been arrested so far for crimes related to the riot, and the FBI is engaged in an effort to track down others involved.
President Joe Biden also discussed the police response and language used to describe the mob at a Jan. 7 speaking event.
“They weren’t protesters,” Biden said. “Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists.”
The insurrection highlighted the issue of racial injustice in the country and was uniquely harmful toward marginalized communities, according to a statement from Georgetown’s Counseling and Psychiatric Service.
“This assault on democracy was horrific and only exacerbated pre-existing tensions from the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing racial injustice,” CAPS wrote in a statement posted on the university’s website. “We understand that this negatively affects everyone in different ways, but in particular, affects vulnerable communities who have been marginalized, oppressed, and denied full participation in our democratic processes.”