Two weeks ago, Americans witnessed unprecedented events in Washington, D.C. that kept us glued to our screens for hours on end. On Jan. 6, rioters breached the Capitol building while halting Congressional election certification counting. Police evacuated members of Congress from the Capitol while rioters wandered the building. Videos released throughout the week displayed civilians breaking windows and fighting police officers. The event took place two weeks before president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Lillie Crawford, a sophomore studying international relations, recalled her feelings as she watched the events at the Capitol take place live. “I was amazed, and my initial reaction was something like: why isn’t law enforcement doing anything?” Crawford said. “They were pretty much just letting them roam the Capitol building. If you think back to the Black Lives Matter protests that happened over the summer, they didn’t even let protestors walk the streets without getting pepper sprayed or tear gassed.”
Crawford explained her shock and worry after witnessing the images and videos that came out as the event transpired. “I was thinking: These people are in the Capitol, screaming in police officers’ faces and physically harming them on federal property,” Crawford said. “I was really worried about the safety of congresspeople. Seeing people walking through the Capitol building carrying a Confederate flag and calling themselves patriots is something I find so ironic.”
Since the Capitol breach on Jan. 6., the FBI has issued warnings of planned armed protests in all 50 state capitals throughout the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration. The FBI statement noted that they were focusing on supporting local and federal law enforcement to combat armed threats.
Surprised by law enforcement’s response to the Capitol riots, Crawford expressed her hope that state capitals maintain security this weekend. “It feels like it’s a civil war,” Crawford said. “The people who are planning to attend are really enraged. Hopefully, we’re able to keep state capitals safe.”
In other news, the House of Representatives responded to last Wednesday’s Capitol riots by impeaching President Trump on Jan. 13 for incitement of insurrection. President Trump is the first in the nation’s history to be impeached twice.
Crawford described her thoughts on how the Senate might vote on impeachment. “I’m going to be really interested to see if any Republicans are willing to jump ship to protect their party so that it doesn’t go down as the party that sponsored Donald Trump,” Crawford said. “Even more, I’m interested to see if in the future, the Republican Party will split between the people who are Republicans, and the people who are Trumpists.”
All of this activity in Washington takes place as the country prepares to welcome a new president into the White House on Jan. 20. President-elect Biden recently laid out plans for the administration’s first 100 days in office.
Kate Schiller, a sophomore studying political science, described her worries and anticipations for the current political climate as the country faces a new transition of power. “I think we are in a really polarized political climate, possibly the most polarized climate we’ve seen in quite a bit,” Schiller said. “I believe that in order to move forward from this dark mess of a presidential term, we are going to need to look to reforms that are of a bipartisan effort. Additionally, placing importance on human rights and public health issues, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, mask-wearing policies and vaccination debates is absolutely crucial.”
Crawford also expressed that she felt the country was in a polarized state. “I think the first month of Biden’s administration is going to be an extremely tough time because there are a lot of people who are incredibly unhappy right now,” Crawford said. “I hope they’ll be able to push legislation through, but I also think that the first month is going to be rough.”
Schiller explained that it would take strong measures from both parties for the country to heal. “If we truly are to have a successful political future, we are going to have to truly put country over party,” Schiller said.
In terms of how the country’s political climate may affect student life, Crawford emphasized how students and administrators should move ahead. “Virginia Tech is a predominantly white institution and with all of this going on, I’m afraid that students who are people of color or minorities might feel more unsafe being there now,” Crawford said. “Allies of the racial equality movement who are white should continue to call on university administration to make sure that students at Virginia Tech are protected and continue to tear down institutions of white supremacy at the school.”