“It’s absolutely terrifying”: D.C.-area Emerson students denounce insurrection at U.S. Capitol Building

By Frankie Rowley, Assistant News Editor

Emerson students living in the Washington D.C. area expressed fear and outrage as a right-wing mob supporting President Donald J. Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday afternoon, forcing the delay of the electoral college certification process in an attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election.

The mob, which the Associated Press reported was armed, gathered outside the Capitol building beginning around 1 p.m. before breaching the Capitol building an hour later. Rioters, who wore hats emblazoned with “Make America Great Again” and carried Trump/Pence flags, invaded both chambers of Congress. One woman died after being shot, police said.

Members of Congress—who had convened to certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s victory in the presidential election—sheltered and then evacuated the building. Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a 6 p.m. curfew for the city, and called in the National Guard from D.C. and neighboring states to attempt to quell the riots. Congress plans to continue the certification process at 8 p.m. est.   

“I feel like we should have all seen this coming,” senior Grace Tepper said. “That’s what makes me partly so mad—that they haven’t been stopped. The hypocrisy of police forces, the hypocrisy of people in the executive branch and their inability to act, it just makes me even more angry because we knew that this was coming.”

Tepper, who lives just outside of D.C. in Kensington, Maryland, said she was upset by the way police were managing the situation. Tepper said police action today contrasts with law enforcement response during Black Lives Matter rallies in D.C. over the summer. Today, Tepper said, the mob so far has faced few consequences for their actions from police.

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“It’s very frustrating to see this happen,” Tepper said. “The rest of this year people have protested peacefully and for good reason—and they have been beaten, arrested and treated so terribly. But these people are sitting on the Senate floor, taking pictures of Senators’ notes, breaking windows, sitting in Congressmen and women’s offices, climbing up the side of the [US Capitol] building, it’s absurd. It’s absurd that they are not treated with the same disrespect that peaceful protesters have been.” 

Lila Neusner, a junior who lives in Bethesda, Maryland, said the infiltration of the Capitol hit close to home as many of her high school friends’ parents work in D.C., and her father worked in the White House during the Bush Administration. 

“It’s absolutely terrifying,” Neusner said. “They’re all completely barricaded, completely on lockdown. Schools are on lockdown, it’s crazy to see all of this happening right down the street from where I live.”

In a tweet Wednesday evening, Trump called for today to be remembered.

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

Leo Duch Clerici, a Spanish immigrant to the U.S. who lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, said the events at the Capitol were completely antithetical to the “American Dream” instilled in him when he moved to the U.S. 

“You always feel this sense of, ‘America is the land of free, the brave, opportunity, and democracy’,” Duch Clerici said. “Obviously we know there’s a falsehood to that, but you kind of have this hope that America has to prove that it is a land of democracy. But seeing this, it’s like the worst coup d’etat, in the sense that it’s completely unorganized and no one knows what they’re doing, but it’s so surreal because it feels like something that shouldn’t be happening in the United States.” 

Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin J. Walsh both strongly condemned the violence. 

The unrest unfolding in our nation’s capital is unfathomable,” Walsh said in a statement. “To witness this type of violence and aggression in response to fair and legitimate election results is sickening, and President Trump has done nothing but foment this behavior – today and for far too long. He has proven, once again, to be incapable of rising to the responsibilities of the Office of the President of the United States. We stand united in denouncing this violence, and we ask everyone, regardless of their personal politics, to choose peace over violence.” 

Baker, a Republican, denounced the President directly. 

“The chaos now unfolding is the sad but predictable outcome of weeks of attacks perpetrated by President Trump and his supporters against the democratic process that makes America the greatest nation on earth,” he wrote in a tweet.  

As of publication, large mobs are still gathered in the area but have left the building. Police are attempting to remove the rioters from the area.  

President M. Lee Pelton issued a message to the Emerson community Wednesday night denouncing the siege of the U.S. Capitol building and calling for the condemnation of President Donald J. Trump.

Emerson Police Department declined to give a statement on whether they were employing any on-campus security for potential protests.

UPDATED 10:26 p.m.: This story has been updated to include a statement from President M. Lee Pelton and information from ECPD.