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The Aquilian

The current Capitol is not the Capitol I know and love

Fencing and barbed wire have surrounded the Capitol since early January. (Photo by Will Thompson)

Last week, upon leaving Eye Street, I decided to drive towards the Capitol to catch a quick glance of our nation’s centerpiece. However, I was a bit caught off guard as I made my way closer to the edge of Capitol Hill and saw rows of orange cones in the road. The cones blocked the road ahead and all of the streets that led up to the Capitol building beyond.

As my eyes rose from the cones to the Capitol, I saw the large, ugly wall topped with long strands of curly barbed-wire standing as the next form of deterrent. This is all so wrong. These drastic defenses were installed in response to the raiding of the Capitol on Jan. 6, and after living in the DMV for 13 years, I would not usually go to investigate the fencing of high-security areas, but my interest was piqued; I had never seen the Capitol like this.

The Capitol has a different feel since it was surrounded by fencing in early January. (Photo by Will Thompson)

So, I parked my car at Gonzaga and walked back down North Capitol to get a better look. As I neared the building again, I felt like I was entering a military war zone. On foot, I was able to walk right along the full length of the fencing. I ran my fingers along the metal links of the seven-foot wall and watched as my frozen breath coursed through to the other side.

I looked up at the barbed wire; the Capitol reminded me of a prison. From the other side, hundreds of National Guardsmen watched as I strolled by, every single one of them yielding an AR-rifle. There were thousands of them within the two-mile radius of Capitol Hill, many standing alone in lines, 20 to 30 feet from the next man or woman, and some stood in small groups talking to each other in certain areas.

Nodding to them as I passed and snapping pictures of it all, some were kind enough to give a nod or a smile and pose for a picture. It was nice to interact with some of these soldiers. Most of them, however, looked on with emotionless faces.

These figures embedded fear in the pit of my stomach, as their rifles seemed a little more dangerous than the others. I tried to counteract this fear with a smile and successive nods. Then, I could only muster a nervous chuckle when one of these soldiers sternly looked at my camera and showed me his middle finger.

The National Guard was still present watching those who walked by. (Photo by Will Thompson)

I continued on, a little quicker until out of sight, to the west side. Stopping to look down the Mall for a moment, I thought about how the Gonzaga football team would never be able to get their pictures without the tall barriers standing behind them if it remained like this. Being around the Capitol building would never be the same.           

There was a new sense of discomfort and a disconnection from the building and all it stands for.

I thought, “Look at what we have done to our own home.” Now, almost two months after the riots at the Capitol, one may wonder, “Are these walls making it better or worse?” Radical nationalists attacked our home with such hate because of severe social division, and now we’ve locked it up with a physically divisive wall.

As I walked back to Eye Street, I thought about a better way to go about this. We could definitely employ a higher, more specialized security, but how much longer should we have a wall around our symbol of freedom?

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