The Pitt News

TPN reacts to weekend in Washington, D.C.

Marchers+pass+the+Washington+Monument+on+Constutution+Avenue.+John+Hamilton+%7C+Visual+Editor
Marchers pass the Washington Monument on Constutution Avenue. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

Marchers pass the Washington Monument on Constutution Avenue. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

Marchers pass the Washington Monument on Constutution Avenue. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

By The Pitt News Staff

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After returning from Washington, D.C., here’s what some of The Pitt News staff had to say about inauguration weekend:

Elizabeth Lepro, editor-in-chief

I wasn’t able to make it to the inauguration, but I arrived in D.C. the next day to cover the Women’s March on Washington — which was by far the largest group of people I’ve ever seen in one place. It was a long day of shuffling through packed streets filled with people of all races, gender and sexual identities  — or lack thereof — nationalities and ages.

In the beginning of the day, as we approached what could have easily been the setup for a large music festival, I commented on the state of protests as I’ve observed them lately. I frequently see people taking the streets more concerned with having individual experiences — and then broadcasting them through a variety of social media networks — than communal ones. But without phone service or Wi-Fi, people chatted with one another Saturday, guided those who had been separated from groups and complimented each other’s craftwork on knitted pussyhats and cardboard protest signs. There was a large contingent of women over 60 years old, who brought with them that linked-arms-in-solidarity spirit of days past. Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem were among them. “We must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough,” Steinem said from behind the lenses of her iconic shades. That seemed to sum up the day.  

Lauren Rosenblatt, managing editor

As a reporter, being in D.C. for the inauguration was exciting, overwhelming and energizing. I went back to the National Mall Sunday morning — two days after President Donald Trump was sworn into office and one day after activists organized the largest protest in American history. Standing between the Capitol on one side and the Washington Monument in the distance on the other, the space suddenly seemed small and I found it hard to fathom how many people had fit in those few blocks over the course of the weekend. People were still walking the streets, visiting the monuments and museums. Stages and speakers were still set up, a few tired souls were still resting on the bleachers and signs still littered the sidewalk streets.

As I walked past the National Museum of the American Indian, I couldn’t help but wonder which event the people were here for — were they here to celebrate the inauguration of their chosen president or were they here to protest the same thing?

What I decided is that it didn’t matter. No matter what side of the argument one stands on, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the passion people have for improving their country — whether that be through fighting for women’s rights or supporting one man’s ideas for bring jobs to America. The immense display of dedication to beliefs and values was incredible and it is something I am grateful to have had the chance to experience.

Stephen Caruso, online visual editor

“This is what democracy looks like” was a common chant at marches throughout the inauguration weekend. And while exercising the First Amendment right to protest is certainly democratic, our democracy looks more like mindless debate than a commitment to understanding. Our democracy looks like the supporters and detractors I found in the streets of Washington, D.C., weighing the pros and cons of each other’s visions for America.

Both sides seem more interested in winning the argument than reaching a compromise or understanding one another. When you enter an debate just looking for a opportunity to drop the mic or make a pithy rebuttal, rather than hear the other side out, nothing will change.

But after a vitriolic campaign, I was concerned all political conversations would cease. And many people I talked to this weekend, on both sides, seemed more willing than ever to hear their political opposites out.

Matt Moret, online engagement editor

I’m not really a reporter — I’ve been an opinions columnist and editor for The Pitt News, and was only at the inauguration to manage our social media. Unfortunately, for most of Inauguration Day, I thought my trip to D.C. was going to be a bust. Despite arriving to the inauguration early, bad directions sent myself and some other TPN staffers on a long loop around the capital. Watching Donald Trump take his oath of office from a cell phone in a Washington Metro stop wasn’t exactly part of our plan. Later, we found a good spot on the parade route, but waiting there became taxing as depressed protesters and angry Trump supporters argued with no interest in compromise. Politics aside, it was all very disheartening. Walking through the streets, we heard pedestrians mention tear gas somewhere. Then we heard police grenades and saw smoke, so I ran in the direction of the sounds alongside my colleagues.

There’s some old line about “real” reporters going toward danger while others run away, but I never really thought that would be something I’d experience. And I couldn’t help but get the same feeling while standing in the midst of the Women’s March a day later, because I never really thought I’d get to witness history either. Inauguration weekend was the most exciting trip of my life, even if I’m too young for that to mean much. I’m still figuring out where I fit into the media world and where the country is headed, but I know this was something special. Pictures don’t do it justice, so I hope I never forget the feeling.

Elaina Zachos, senior staff writer and photographer

Less than 36 hours before Inauguration Day, I secured a ride and housing in Washington, D.C., for the weekend. When I hopped in Theo’s Honda Civic with Matt in the front and John next to me in the back — we’re all TPN reporters — I had no idea what I was getting into. Living in and covering a liberal pocket like Pittsburgh, what was going to happen when we clashed with conservative views in the capital? As a woman, how was I supposed to cover a president who has outwardly shamed my gender? Should I anticipate violent protests or peaceful marches? Again, no idea what to expect.

My faith in the United States fluctuated over the weekend. It plummeted when I listened to Trump supporters and protesters arguing via chant in the hours before the parade. It rose when I saw hundreds of thousands of people conquering Washington’s streets, calling for peace and social justice. After the four-hour car ride back to Pittsburgh, I’m still letting the history that took place over weekend set in. The only thing I really know is that the next four years are going to be interesting, for journalism and for humanity.

James Evan Bowen-Gaddy, senior staff writer

I find it challenging, working in this role as a newer journalist, to balance my coverage of both the mundane and the extreme. This weekend in Washington, D.C., was a beautiful display of democracy — a constant show of debates in the streets, mostly peaceful, with a few instances of violence. I listened to the fascinating stories travelers had to tell about why they were there, what America meant to them and how they felt this election was changing that vision. I saw hundreds of thousands come to see Trump take his presidential oath. I saw over a million show up to peacefully protest that same president’s comments about women. And I saw what appeared to be under 100 folks, dressed in black, smash some windows and burn some trash cans on one small portion of a city street. And what got the most attention during my Twitter coverage? The violent protesters.

As a journalist, it’s my responsibility to go out and report on what’s happening at every moment. That’s why, when I saw smoke rising into the air on 13th and K streets, I ran to interview protestors as well as take photos and videos. It was action-packed, interesting and invigorating. I understand that. It’s troubling to me, however, that we give so much attention to these isolated events as if they occurred in equal volume compared to that of the peaceful protestors who marched for women everywhere or the happy Trump supporters who smoked cigars on the National Mall. It’s my hope that I can do my job well enough for people to see that what happened this weekend was not a show of animalistic protest and violence. It was much more nuanced than that, and it’s hard to fit that idea into a series of tweets.

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TPN reacts to weekend in Washington, D.C.