Normally quiet streets around US state capitol buildings have looked more like battlegrounds recently, putting those who live and work there on edge and instilling a sense of foreboding, reports Andrew Selsky for Associated Press.
More than most people, these Americans will have front-row seats on whether the change of leadership in the White House will lead to a lessening of tension. They’ll be watching what the next chapter brings from storefronts and the porches and stoops of their own homes.
Some expect Joe Biden to bring a unifying tone when he’s inaugurated as president on Wednesday, but say that alone won’t be enough to bring unity. How the people react will be key.
Jonathan Jones’ front-row seat to what happens next is his restaurant that is decorated with Black Lives Matter signs and art near the Oregon State Capitol. Epilogue Kitchen and Cocktails has been vandalized by a white supremacist. One day, police showed up as Jones and his friends were being accosted by neo-fascist Proud Boys. The police at first confronted Jones’ group as if they were the threat.
“There’s not a person who stood with me that day who didn’t think that they might die,” Jones said. “And the most awful part was not knowing if it was going to come from the police or from the Proud Boys.”
Jones plans on listening to Biden’s inaugural address.
“I hope that he does not call for unity with neo-fascists, because there cannot be unity with people who want to see me dead,” Jones said.
In Washington state, a neighborhood next to the Capitol in Olympia boasts mid-century and 100-year-old homes. “It’s a very charming, calm, nice place to walk a dog and chat with the neighbors on the porch,” one woman told AP.
But in recent weeks, frequent protests involving people in tactical gear and armed with guns have created a climate of fear. People shout into megaphones, loud trucks drive down narrow streets, residents are called names or harassed, media helicopters and police planes fly overhead.
“There’s no retreat, because it’s your house, it’s where you live. It’s been a little jolting, and exhausting,” said the woman, who is so afraid for the safety of herself and her family that she spoke to a reporter only on condition she not be identified.
She said she is optimistic that Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris will be able to accomplish many things. “But I’m not sure that will change the real divisions we’ve all seen,” she said.
“People are behaving so differently, openly, that I don’t know moving forward as a country if we’ll be able to find each other again.”
Brian Henderson, minister of First Baptist Church of Denver that sits across an avenue from the shuttered Colorado Capitol, was so close to the upheavals of 2020 that he was struck in the left knee with a pepper ball. Henderson had been handing out water from the front steps of his small brick church as thousands battled police during riots over George Floyd’s killing.
Many neighboring businesses and state government buildings have boarded up their windows and doors in anticipation of possible violence but the church has not, to avoid giving the wrong message.
“We can’t let fear stop us from doing what we have to do,” Henderson said. Henderson said he will watch the inauguration, “take a big deep breath and go, ‘Phew! We made it. A long four years.”’