Awe & Shock: D.C. locals react to the nation’s Capitol under military control

Washington-DC

"...It's a prison. It's just unthinkable that this could happen in the United States."

WASHINGTON (WDVM) — It’s Inauguration Day 2021, and the scenes in our nation’s capital are more reminiscent of a war-torn country than a beacon of democracy. It can be difficult just to look at the pictures of the temporary “norm” in Washington D.C., but having to experience it firsthand, either because you work or live in the District, brings the anxiety — and astonishment — to a completely different level. 

Mike Bergeron is an architect who’s lived and worked in Silver Spring, Maryland for over three decades. Witnessing the militarization in the city left him practically speechless. “This is just crazy. It’s uncalled for. It’s crazy,” he said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic already had enough force to make this year’s swearing-in ceremony untraditional, but add the insurrection two weeks ago at the Capitol building, and you have an event that even historians struggle to compare with the past.  

“It’s amazing, I never thought there’d be a day that I’d see tanks on the streets of Washington D.C., blocking our Nation’s Capital and our seat of government,” said Jimmy Alexander, a contributor for WDVM’s sister station, DCW50. Alexander has lived and worked in Washington D.C. since 1997 — he’s lived through the highs and the lows, but seeing the extensive street closures and hefty military presence has left him in utter shock. 

“It’s sad, when you see the razor wire as we’re watching right now… being put up like it’s a prison. It’s just unthinkable that this could happen in the United States.”

Jimmy Alexander

On any normal day, the streets around the Capitol complex are bustling. Pedestrians are able to walk right up to the Capitol building themselves and check it out — you can get much closer to the Capitol itself than the White House. But, as we’re constantly reminded, we are not living in normal times. Crews started their work about one week early, erecting 8-foot steel fences topped with razor-wiring to line the Capitol and National Mall. 

25,000 National Guard troops were deployed into D.C. from every state. Their task? Assuring a smooth and peaceful transition of power. 

“But now I’m just roaming around the streets. And just, the feel of silence… of no noise… it irks you,” said Bergeron. “It’s going to be in my memory for sure.”

Alexander believes that a powerful message can be learned from all of this.

“We aren’t enemies. I think that’s the key. We are not enemies of somebody just because they have a different political affiliation. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Vegetarian,” he said. “We have more in common than we don’t.”

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