I got the idea to go to Washington for Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March after covering election night, so when I got the opportunity to drive down to D.C. with a few of my photojournalism classmates, I couldn’t pass it up.
We arrived in D.C. late Thursday night and tried to get a few hours of sleep before hopping on the metro Friday morning. As soon as we got out of the metro station downtown, I could hear the sound of protesters with microphones, and I started heading that way. I spent most of the rest of that morning photographing protesters along the inaugural parade route on Pennsylvania Ave. By the time the presidential motorcade had passed, we were all pretty hungry so we grabbed a bite to eat and tried to figure out our plan for the rest of the day. We ended up hearing about a riot on K St. and I figured it probably would have died down, but it was still worth a shot to check it out.
Once we arrived at K. St., I saw a large group of people huddled around a small fire. The longer I stayed and shot, the more people started arriving and the larger the fire got. I noticed the majority of people appeared intoxicated or drinking.
Fifteen minutes later, the crowd started to get out of hand and the riot police moved in to break it up. At first the protesters backed down, but they eventually formed a wall and started moving toward the line of riot police. The officers started yelling “move back, move back”, but the crowd kept coming.
At this point I was in the crowd trying to get a shot of the protesters in the foreground with the riot police in the background. As soon as the crowd (with me in it) moved about 5 yards from the officers, they opened fire with pepper spray. I started to move to the edge of the crowd to try and get some shots of the police starting to spray. But before I was able to make it any closer, I got hit directly in the face by a stream of pepper spray. Afraid that I would get caught up in the riot police and blinded by the spray, I crawled back 20 yards or so to try and regain my vision and try to regroup.
By the time I was able to see again, the riot had escalated further and protesters were screaming in the faces of riot police. Eventually, the crowd started running through the streets and I followed them until the riot got contained (and many got arrested) right outside of an inauguration ball.
Overall shooting the events around the inauguration was an amazing experience. I’ve never seen anything like it. The next day we all covered the Women’s March, and the difference between Inauguration Day and that was astounding. I never felt too crowded during the inauguration, but during the Women’s March the city was blanketed in people. As a student not shooting for any media outlet, I was free to wander the city and capture interesting and powerful moments.
That’s what photojournalism is all about, picking a few people out of a crowd and telling their story with just a few frames.