WASHINGTON – Nine Buffalo State students traveled to the capital Friday for President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration and a lesson in democracy, but the first thing they learned is that freedom of movement is not fully guaranteed in the Constitution.
Arriving in the morning with their professor, Peter Yacobucci, the students encountered roadblocks and detours that left them parked far from the National Mall.
And when they tried to walk to the ceremony, police stopped them – and thousands of others – at 14th Street NW, 14 blocks from the Capitol.
So the students got their lesson in democracy from a Jumbotron near the Washington monument. And to hear the lone strong Trump supporter in the group tell it, it was worth the effort despite all the hassle.
“He represents populism,” Nicholas Hurtado, 18, said of the new president. “My crowd is finally starting to get their voice heard.”
Hurtado, 18, from Wheatfield, said Trump is part of a new worldwide movement.
“The people are taking the power back from Brussels and London and Washington,” said Hurtado, a political science major. “I’m down with that.”
Hurtado even saw a sign of magnanimity coming from Trump’s speech, in which the new president vilified the professional politicians even though they were sitting all around him. Among those politicians on stage was his vanquished opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“At least he didn’t say: ‘Lock her up!’” Hurtado noted.
Trump’s propensity for such blunt talk is the one thing stopping Alyssa Greymont, 19, from being a full-fledged Trump supporter.
“The way he puts people down is wrong,” said Greymont, who is hearing-impaired and reliant on hearing aids, a fact that made her sensitive to Trump's treatment of a disabled reporter during the campaign.
Yet Greymont is a conservative who has seen her parents, who live in San Jose, teeter near bankruptcy thanks to the nation’s economic troubles. She also lamented high taxes and the illegal immigrants she’s seen taking jobs in her native California – and said she hopes Trump can be true to his promise to “make America great again.”
The rest of the students, though, had serious doubts about whether Trump could do that.
“I think he is unfit for the presidency,” said Alexander Meldrum, 20, a political science major from Buffalo.
Asked what made him say that, Meldrum said: “The past two years of his campaign – his behavior.”
Andrew Small, a 21-year-old senior from Port Washington, wasn’t particularly excited about the Trump administration either.
“Now that he’s in this position, he has to actually do something,” Small said. “He has to prove that the American people were right to support him.”
Small said that he feels he has to support Trump now that he’s president.
“I didn’t vote, so I can’t complain,” he added.
Lacey Stamp isn’t a Trump supporter, either, but the 20-year-old junior from Lancaster learned a bit of a lesson from talking to an older couple who strongly believe in the new president.
“They said: ‘Why would you want him to fail? If he fails, we all go down with him’,” Stamp said.
Lessons like that were what Yacobucci, an assistant professor of political science, hoped the students would learn in Washington. But he learned a different one.
“The security is insane!” said Yacobucci, of traffic diversions as well as the police roadblock that stranded them blocks from the inauguration. “What is this, a police state?”