Five Pitt students arrested at inauguration in D.C.


Police push back protesters on 12th Avenue during street protests following the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Among the 230 people arrested during the Inauguration protests, five of them were Pitt students. John Hamilton | Visual Editor

The morning of Inauguration Day, before Trump took his presidential oath, Americans filtered onto the National mall. Among them, Anika Mavinkurve, a senior neuroscience major, noticed that the inauguration was calm — not a crowbar, brick or act of violence in sight.

“When we first walked in there was 100 max protesters on 9th and Pennsylvania across from the National Archives. No one was vicious or mean,” she said.

While some protests, like the one Mavinkurve witnessed, took place on the National Mall, within the security gates, others broke out beyond the gates. In some cases, these protests slowed the line for spectators to enter the National Mall.  

After a day of peaceful protests, violence broke out — breaking windows with pieces of pavement, throwing bricks at cars and lighting a limousine on fire. Demonstrators took to the streets, dragging news stands, bus stops, and trash cans into the road, all of which they set ablaze. Some protesters called out against this action, but the vandals were not perturbed. On K street, protesters squared off against riot police. A haze of pepper spray filled the air above them all, raining down into their eyes and lungs. In waves, demonstrators fled the street, then returned when the pepper spray settled.

Police in Washington, D.C., arrested 230 protesters — 33 from Pittsburgh, five of whom are Pitt students. The protesters were charged with felony rioting, which can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison or $25,000 in fines. Those arrested were brought into D.C. Superior Court in groups of 10 on Saturday.

Before the start of the presidential parade, a portion of protesters gathered outside Columbus Circle Friday at noon. The protest, called DisruptJ20, was organized by activist group D.C. Counter-Inaugural Welcoming Committee.

DisruptJ20 organized the riot on 13th and K streets, parallel to the inauguration parade route a few blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue. The parade, originally scheduled for 3 p.m., began at 3:30 p.m. The protest began at noon and ended at 3 p.m.

Protesters damaged an estimated $100,000 worth of property during the protest with bricks, crowbars and stray pieces of pavement.

According to D.C. law, anyone willfully engaging in a riot will be fined $1,000 or spend a maximum 180 days in jail. If bodily harm or property damage in excess of $5,000 occurs, a protester may be given the maximum sentence or fine, which is 10 years in prison or $25,000 in fines.

Preliminary hearings for the students arrested are scheduled between February and March of this year.