News

Tales from the Inauguration

Shaler alumna and other college students covered the event in Washington

Police formation at the inauguration. Photo by Nikole Kost

Donald Trump’s inauguration was at the center of attention for the media and the entire world. Former Shaler Area student and Oracle staff member Kayla Snyder had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. to cover the inauguration as part of a media group from Point Park University.

After covering much of the campaign and the candidates, the writers at Point Park University’s  student newspaper, “The Globe”, thought it would be exciting to go to Washington D.C to witness the inauguration. Editor Alexander Popichak had been to the rallies for Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump in Pittsburgh.

“We had coverage of all three candidates before the election, which was cool,” Popichak said, “so over the summer we realized that eventually someone is going to win the election and someone was going to get inaugurated. So in July [we] worked with the university to get a media trip to Washington D.C. and try to get press credentials. [The press credentials] didn’t happen.”

Despite not being granted press credentials, Point Park hosted two separate Inauguration trips: one for Point Park media (student newspaper, radio station and television station) and one for The Campus Activity Board (CAB) for any other student who wanted to go. Snyder and her colleague Nikole Kost accompanied the CAB trip to chronicle the events of Point Park students at the Inauguration.

When most of the students on the CAB trip decided to not go to the inauguration, the assignments changed.

“Our goal was to write about what Point Park students were doing in D.C. but that fell through,” Snyder said. She noted that many of the Point Park students ended up in other D.C. places such as the Washington D.C. Zoo.

Without press passes, those involved with the newspaper saw it as an opportunity to move around more and get a better picture of what was happening in several area of D.C.

“I sent out this giant email to all of the people who I knew were going to D.C. and gave them all an assignment. We were trying to put different people in different places,” Popichak said.

Popichak’s day started around 4 a.m. after getting four hours of sleep. He boarded a metro to get to the National Mall, where the inauguration was taking place. Popichak and some others waited in three hours worth of security lines, where his camera was checked to make sure it was not a fake. He then found a spot in the mall to watch Trump get sworn in.

“There were so many red hats. So many red hats,” Popichak said.

Snyder ended up along the parade route with Nikole Kost at first. They went to bed at midnight, got up at 1:30 a.m., took a five-hour bus ride to D.C. and eventually got on a metro. After the 40-minute commute into D.C., they were greeted with LGBTQ protests when the got off the metro.

“We got out of the metro station and to our left is this big protest group, but it wasn’t a typical protest group. There was dancing and blasting Beyonce’s music. It was like a dance party,” Snyder said.

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Protesters at the inauguration. Photo by Nikole Kost

There were plenty of other protests that were not quite as light-hearted.

Photojournalist Nikole Kost went to the inauguration on a free-lance assignment from the Tribune Review to photograph people from Pittsburgh in Washington, D.C. and “anything crazy that happened.”. In doing so, Kost ended up in the middle of a protest that was eventually broken up by police.

“We went to the ceremony and listened to him get sworn in which was really cool,” she said. “Instead of staying for the parade I decided to leave and and go (photograph) protests.”

“I found this protest and started chasing it. I saw them knocking garbage cans over, which is what it started with. Then they started smashing windows. They all had masks on which was really creepy. Being a photojournalist, I started running towards it. Next thing I saw were cops running (towards us),” Kost said. “I was so scared I was going to get arrested because the cops were going to think I was part of the protest.”

While Kost was not arrested, the group had planned for the possibility that someone might be arrested.

“We actually checked with the university before and they said were willing to post bail for us, depending on what we were detained for,” Popichak said.

Even though she was not arrested, Kost got plenty of first-hand experience with what it’s like to be part of a violent protest in which the police intervene.

“I can tell you what tear gas feels like,” she said. “If you ever put hot sauce in your eyes and then fire in your lungs, that’s what tear gas feels like.”

She said, “(The police) had little squirt guns. They looked like little Nerf squirt guns. I saw the liquid come out. I didn’t get hit directly with it. Thank God because I can’t imagine what that would feel like. After they shot it, it came back because the wind was blowing (toward us) and went right in my face. I nearly collapsed, it was terrible.”

After the protest was eventually broken, Kost found herself in a McDonald’s bathroom amidst the chaos taking place in the streets.

“I went to a McDonald’s and flushed my eyes out and I sat there and just reevaluated my life. Is this what I want to do with my life? I don’t know,” Kost said.

In addition to being hit with tear gas, Kost was also thrown down by police earlier in the day. She was trying to take picture at a pro-marijuana rally, when a formation of police officers stormed the security checkpoint that was crowded as people were trying to get to the parade route.

“As I was taking this picture, I felt two hands on my back. I got picked up and thrown like a ragdoll. He told me to get out of the way, then they stormed the (security) checkpoint because it was so out of control. It was pretty scary,” she said.

Kost captured multiple pictures of a day that were published in both the Tribune Review and The Globe.

“It was fun. My feet were sore and my eyes hurt til the next day,” Kost said. “It was crazy. I loved every second of it.”

To check out the Inauguration edition in “The Globe” click here.