My night is at Checkpoint Washington, DC
AGI – two hundred thousand flags and 26 thousand soldiers. what happens? The Republicans condemn the “military occupation”, a political battle against democracy. Sure, the numbers are as unprecedented as the pictures. A little history. After Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson deployed 13,000 federal agents to the capital to counter the riots that followed the killing of the black leader. This Washington awaits Joe Biden on the day of the inauguration, and the president will not be looking at a river of Americans swearing in on Capitol Hill, but rather a field of flags representing everyone who could not reach the capital. We are there, we are journalists, but getting there was an adventure. Monday morning, Martin Luther King’s day, celebration day in America, I left Houston, Bush airport is not particularly crowded, but in front of the boarding on the Washington DC-Reagan flight, the city airport, a large number materialized: 3 TSA agents (Transportation Security Administration) ; 4 policemen; 2 Secret Service agents (they are not very secretive, either they have the writing that qualifies them or they can be immediately recognized by the earphones); Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, 71, is African American, has been elected to Congress for a 14-year term, accompanied by an aide. There are usually a maximum of three hostesses at the same gate. Two passenger assistants and one communicated onto the microphone. The checks are over, the luggage and documents have passed the check, but even then, something new happens when it’s time to get on the plane. The ticket is no longer enough, the airport police want to see the documents again, then the flight attendant scans the ticket and another hand luggage check follows. Finally on board. Business class is full (not economics), weird these days, but we’re on the eve of the Biden oath and whoever cares goes to Capitol Hill. Three hours into the flight, I landed at Reagan Airport shortly after 8pm, so far all has gone well. Checked luggage, zero line, taxi, I drive to a hotel near the Capitol. The car reaches the center within 15 minutes. Then another story begins. What a story? Those are at checkpoints in Washington, DC. The first checkpoint. It’s been three months since the last mission to the US capital, but the city is unrecognizable. It looks like a military occupation land. The taxi stopped a group of soldiers blocking the road with military vehicles. The taxi driver rolls out the window. “You can’t go through here, go to another entrance.” It is worthless, the credentials of the media in front of the military are fading, and the hotel reservations open are wasted papers. The application of martial law does not seem to exist in reality, but it does. The car turns around Capitol Hill to search for another gate. Follow. The second barrier. Still the same formation: the chariots blocking the road and the armed soldiers defending it. They are all very young, no one lives in Washington, and in fact they don’t know the city and have no idea how to steer the driver or the person trying to get to their destination on foot. Without a compass. This time the soldiers are kinder, but also inflexible: “You can’t pass here.” We are forced to go, but not where. I called the AGI manager, a few hours before he crossed the checkpoint in a taxi, between Sixth Street and C. He’s alone, apparently, to the point that when I explain to the policemen who let him pass the car, they tell me “It’s not true.” Meanwhile, past nine in the evening, we kept driving, the taxi driver started to lose patience, the meter goes, but I understand he will soon leave me on the ground. Third barrier. The usual configuration, tanks, soldiers, machine guns, concrete blocks. Seek the green light by showing the State Department media badge, an official document of the US government. Finally a twinkle: “Well, you can pass, but only on foot.” With luggage, two personal computers, minus 3 degrees and the hotel about three miles away, Washington is more deserted than ever. I give up, well I walk. I struggle for half an hour, pausing in front of the Hyatt Regency, with journalists filming in the background of the Capitol. Here, too, the road is blocked by concrete blocks and other armored army tanks. Ask the Hyatt Concierge if a car is available. Nothing to do, you cannot cross the barrier. But I have to keep walking and with the bags, I really have no other choice. The phase of fatigue (and fear) is triggered. The Secret Service. On foot I crossed the barrier, on the street two: I and the Darkness. I am inside the protected area, and I don’t know exactly whether or not I can walk in it. The Great Night’s Mystery. It was resolved immediately. The Secret Service stopped me and asked me, with certain energy and surprise, “How did you get here?” The straight answer: “on foot.” Against the secret agent’s response: “But who allowed it to pass?” A very simple answer: “the army.” Elementary Watson. To sum up: I am in Washington, it is night, I have been walking for more than an hour, after three trips, the United States army, the police and now the Secret Service stopped me and interrogated me. So I discovered that the National Guard does not know what the intelligence services are doing, which in turn does not know what the police are doing. noticeable. At one point, I asked the agent, “Can you ask a colleague of mine from which checkpoint I can cross to get to the hotel?” The answer: “You don’t know why, but we don’t talk to each other, and in any case you can’t go through here.” Well the dilemma got to the hysterical stage, and I started crying, asking where they think I should sleep, all the other open hotels have in fact been sold out. Six Secret Service agents, staring at each other in amazement, find themselves in great danger from a woman carrying luggage, tears, and coldness. And it is after 10 pm, at a certain time, I see a parked golf cart with a lot of confidential letters written and … “Can you take me, with that, to the hotel?” The choir replied from the six agents: “No, we cannot leave the checkpoint.” Aso? Cry more. At that point they are called the president. I tell him the story again, from the airport to meeting his agents. Pity shines in his eyes. And the unexpected happens: he takes my bags and puts them on the golf cart and he tells me, “Get in.” I thought, I went, take me to the hotel. But no, he explained to me that the car is electric and does not have the independence to get to the hotel. Where do we go next? Seems like a Mel Brooks movie. A Secret Service agent makes a phone call. “I’ll keep you safe, I’ll take you to a friend of the policeman at Union Station checkpoint. He’s an Italian-American, his name is Pietro.” Let’s recap: I’m in Washington, on a golf cart with the captain of the Secret Service team taking me to Pietro, an Italian-American cop, my last hope. We got to Union Station, in the middle of the road, with armored vehicles, there is a steering wheel. He’s on the plane, Pietro. Speak Neapolitan tightly. His father is from Naples, but he was born and raised here. Greet the head of the Secret Service, thank him, now I’m calm, Pietro will take me to the hotel. And they are. “From here now, I’ll call Uber and tell him where he’s taking you.” The car has arrived, the driver is an Ethiopian, a young man who has lived in Washington DC for ten years. Where are we heading? It’s still there, on 6th Street at the intersection with C Street Southwest. We got to the checkpoint, it is the same checkpoint I was at three hours ago. The soldiers stopped us, they asked me for the documents, my documents, the driver documents and … a miracle, they let us pass. I arrived in front of the hotel, sold out, it is full of National Guard soldiers. Midnight is near, I win my last ticket from the night lottery checkpoint in Washington, DC.