Nearly two weeks ago, students at the University of Rhode of Island attended the 45th Inauguration as well as the subsequent protests and Women’s Marches held throughout the nation and abroad.
Jordan Cheretis, a sophomore Psychology student, joined her friends and family at the Inauguration. Cheretis said she went to be a part of history, but not to protest.
“My friends and I thought we would go [to the Inauguration] no matter who won, just to experience it,” Cheretis said.
While Cheretis noted that there were many protestors at the Inauguration, she explained that not all were violent and there were silent protestors there as well.
“The people there were pretty extreme,” Cheretis said. “Either they were extreme supporters or extreme haters.”
Cheretis and her friends made sure that the clothes they wore did not support either side. “We were just kinda observers of everything,” said Cheretis.
When asked if she would do it again, Cheretis explained that she definitely would. “It was very interesting to go,” Cheteris said. “Even if you don’t agree with the person who’s being sworn in, it’s part of history.”
Later that same day, sophomore civil engineering student Angela Barringer arrived in Washington D.C. to protest peacefully at Franklin Park, but found herself close to the riots that broke out.
“We were standing in the park and all of a sudden heard these big booms,” Barringer said. “Everyone started freaking out and panicking. There was this guy who ran over from K Street saying that it was flashbangs and [the authorities] were using it as a control.”
Out of concern for their safety after things got “hairy,” as Barringer explained it, she and her cousins made the decision to go home. She had not anticipated things to become violent.
“Honestly, I don’t agree with anything that happened in the election,” Barringer said. “I just wanted to be able to focus that in a way that wasn’t hurting anything or anyone.”
Also protesting the election was John Hoolahan, a third-year Pharm D. student. While Hoolahan and his friends were originally staying in Baltimore to go to the Women’s March the day following the election, they decided to take the 45 min train up to D.C. for the Inauguration as well.
“There were cops, national guard, secret service, and snipers on the roof of every building,” explains Hoolahan about the Inauguration, “It [had a] very militaristic feeling. I just knew that I couldn’t set off anyone because it would be a very big scene.”
Hoolahan did not bring any signs to the Inauguration, but wore Bernie Sanders attire, bandanas and was “very obviously not a Trump supporter.”
While the media portrayed the protesters at the Inauguration as being very violent, Hoolahan explains that the violent protestors were not a representation of all the protestors there.
“It was mostly peaceful for the majority of it,” Hoolahan said. “It wasn’t hostile but you could tell that everyone was just energized in different ways.”
The next day, Hoolahan and his friends took the train into the District again, this time for the Women’s March on Washington.
“I wanted to go because you can only post so much on facebook,” Hoolahan said. “It’s not as effective, or fulfilling, as going there and being around people who are yelling about things and causing the media to cover these issues.”
While there were many more people and protesters on Saturday, compared to the Inauguration, Hoolahan explains that he felt much safer on Saturday.
“Saturday was an overwhelming feeling of just strength, unity and empowerment,” Hoolahan said. “It wasn’t so much anger, it was more just we are here, we are present and we are loud.”
Senior education and Spanish student Vivian Rodriguez also made the long trip from Rhode Island for the Women’s March on Washington. Determined to get to the District of Columbia despite her lacking funds, Rodriguez volunteered to help chaperone a group of students from Central Falls High School.
“A couple of students spoke about why they came,” Rodriguez said. “Some of them said things like ‘I’m here because I’m first generation and I know that my parents struggled,’ or ‘I want to make a difference.”
Rodriguez said it was difficult at some points in the march to keep all of the students together among the half a million people who attended, but that she was glad she went. For her, it was uplifting.
Closer to home, sophomore English and writing and rhetoric student Nate Vaccaro attended the Rhode Island chapter of the Women’s March in Providence.
Similar to Rodriguez, Vaccaro described the atmosphere on the State House lawn as uplifting and supportive. Vaccaro surrounded himself with members of his family while advocating for issues that are important to him, such as equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community.
While protesting around the country and across the world has been seen as controversial, especially from conservatives, Vaccaro said talking about these issues is important.
“I’m very open to opposition,” Vaccaro said. “I think that’s the only way that dialogue is going to happen. I want to invite people on the Right to have dialogue [because] the only way we’re going to move forward is to work together.”