As the country continues to grapple with the atrocities that took place on Jan. 6, the experiences and new realities of D.C. residents may be getting overlooked. With their hometown violated and its safety at stake, locals feel the aftermath of the insurrection in a uniquely personal way.
For D.C. locals Shana Laski and Sam Peterson, who moved to D.C. this past summer, the biggest difference they have noticed since the insurrection is the sheer amount of armed military personnel. The National Guard’s presence in D.C. is one “you feel everywhere,” Laski said.
Road closures and blockages are common around the city now, so much so that Laksi struggled to get back to her apartment when out for a walk days after the insurrection. Some residents who live downtown even have to show their ID to get inside their apartments, she explained.
Since the insurrection, approximately 20,000 National Guard members have been deployed to D.C. While their presence is intended to make residents feel safer, it also elicits uncertainty and concern.
“What are you waiting for? What do you know that we don’t know?” Laski questioned about the National Guard.
Similarly, Peterson’s concerns are rooted in the fact that national intelligence like the FBI was aware of the plans for January 6 and did not proactively protect the Capitol. He now questions the allegiance of D.C.’s security, wondering “a) whose side are you on and b) whose side is your boss on?”
He is, however, more comfortable with the abundance of National Guard members than he would be with only a heightened police presence. The allegiance and priorities of police have been sources of concern for many, especially after the insurrection, considering police unions across the country publicly endorsed Trump. Peterson hopes that the federally controlled Guard will hold less partisan views than the police and will prioritize the safety of the people.
For Northwestern second-year and lifelong D.C. resident Maddie Brown, the insurrection all coincided with the start of Winter Quarter. She joked that the first few days of school were “fake” for her, as she and her family were glued to the news for updates.
“On top of the pandemic, it’s so ridiculous to be asking us to focus on this amount of work and maintain this level of brain composure,” Brown said. “We’re living through a lot of history and it’s tiring.”
Along with safety concerns, Brown recognized that the rioters traveled to her hometown in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and few wore masks. This poses grave concern for locals, considering that as of January 6, D.C. hospitals were at 82 percent of their pre-COVID-19 hospital bed capacity. This gathering of thousands of unmasked people, many of whom traveled and went through airports to participate in the insurrection, scares Brown for the safety and health of her city in the coming weeks.
The consequences of the insurrection are immense, but the event itself left Laski, Peterson and Brown with the same conclusion: D.C. needs to become a state. The argument for D.C.’s statehood has been important to D.C. residents for quite some time. The D.C. license plate even reads “Taxation Without Representation” in protest of the lack of representation D.C. has in Congress.
However, this issue is about more than just taxes; as mentioned by both Laski and Brown, it is an issue of race and racial justice. Residents of D.C., 46 percent of whom are Black, are not adequately represented in national politics and are without Congressional representation. Opponents of D.C.’s statehood raise the issue of the electoral college system. While they frame D.C.’s statehood as counter to the intentions of the nation’s founders, Laski attributes it to their fear of D.C gaining electoral college votes that would likely go to Democrats.
The debate over D.C.’s statehood isn’t new, but the insurrection has only added urgency to the issue for its residents. Brown said the riot was able to become as dangerous as it did because of the discrepancy between federal and city control. For instance, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser was unable to send in any National Guard to the Capitol, nor was she able to allow the governor of Maryland to do so. D.C. residents and politicians alike are using the events of January 6 to aid their arguments for D.C.’s statehood. As Democrats gain control of the Senate and White House, Bowser is eager to “get D.C. statehood on the president’s desk within the first 100 days.”
While Washington, D.C., serves as the seat for America’s federal government, it also serves as the home for hundreds of thousands of people: people who had to watch their home be ambushed, ransacked, and threatened by outsiders and who are still coping with the repercussions.
“It’s just sad that this is a place where people call their home and is also a playground for Nazis,” Peterson said.
Brown agreed, quoting Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “There is no ‘healing’ from this without accountability. And there is no ‘unity’ with white supremacists.”