Following the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots led by white supremacists, students living in the D.C. area voice concerns about the increased police and National Guard presence.
Thousands of additional security personnel, according to Reuters, were sent to D.C. for the inauguration of President Joe Biden, including the National Guard and law enforcement because of the looming threat posed by pro-Trump rioters. AU Students who returned to D.C. for the spring semester amid the increased security measures, have noticed the drastic changes downtown and on-campus.
“Even to get bubble tea which was closer to the White House, we had to go through several checkpoints and pat-downs by military personnel,” said freshman Rebekah Chikuni, who has been living in a downtown D.C. hotel since Jan.14. “It felt like I was a criminal, when in reality, all I was doing was going to get food, [which] was something extremely scary.”
“I am Black and so I do feel a sort of presence looming over me,” Chikuni said. “So even now, I think twice about exploring the city because of the heavy police presence.”
AU Students living on campus have also seen a shift in AUPD presence since the riots and presidential inauguration.
Freshman Alejandro Vasquez, who has lived on campus since Sept. 2020, has seen the increase in AUPD and D.C. Metropolitan Police presence. Vasquez has felt unsafe with AUPD’s presence while skateboarding and walking around on campus.
“They made me pull out my wallet and show my student ID, and then they made me show my driver permit as a second form of ID,” Vasquez said, describing one instance where they were stopped by two white AUPD officers.
Vasquez reported the situation to university police, but never received a follow up from their inquiry.
Kayla Kelly, an AU freshman living on campus, felt frustrated seeing white students treat the law enforcement presence as a “photo-op” as they went downtown to pose in front of enforcement. “It [the social media posts] just felt very insensitive on their part,” Kelly said.
Kelly, who is a community organizer, provided unhoused people with resources throughout D.C. on the day of the presidential inauguration and that their mutual aid group faced continuous tension with law enforcement.
“They [police officers] asked us what we were doing and wanted to see if we had a permit, even though we were just passing out items to homeless folks,” Kelly said. “One of the mutual aid group members had to show their ID to show that there was no ulterior motive.”
Chikuni worried for unhoused communities in downtown, where their encampments were pushed out of the area near the White House in Capitol Hill.
“They’re [unhoused communities] being criminalized for being homeless,” Chikuni said. “It’s not just students being impacted. All Black and brown populations in D.C. are suffering from the police presence.”
Washington D.C. Mayor Murial Bowser called for a “new normal” for security following the insurrection and inauguration. Additional law enforcement will be deployed until the end of March, according to Politico.
“The people that are actually causing all of the problems aren’t going to be affected by this [law enforcement presence] at all,” Vasquez said. “So for students of color in D.C., it’s just another thing to think about all the time”.