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How D.C. Locals Are Processing The Insurrection At The Capitol


Washington, D.C., is the federal district provided in the Constitution as a home for the U.S. government. It was a new city, created a site deliberately not north or south, but on the border of a new country that was even then divided. Of course, it's become a real city, too, that's home to 700,000 people.

Nobody knows that city better than Kojo Nnamdi. He's hosted "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU for more than two decades, and he joins us now from his home in Washington, D.C. Kojo, thanks so much for being with us.

KOJO NNAMDI: You're welcome, Scott. And thank you for inviting me.

SIMON: A sad and anxious time - what are people you know, as you're able to get around the city, saying?

NNAMDI: People feel personally attacked by what happened at the Capitol on January 6 because even though we understand that this is federal property, it is also in our town. And we are, frankly, determined that there shall never be a similar occurrence again. And that's what I've been hearing from people who I've been talking to. Of course, a lot of the people who I've been talking to could not help noticing that the insurrectionists, if you will, were predominantly white and that they were treated significantly differently to how protesters who had come here to protest with the Black Lives Matter movement. When those protesters came here, all kinds of federal forces were called out on them. They were pepper sprayed and, in some cases, beaten.

SIMON: Yeah. There, of course, are investigations ongoing about what failed on the law enforcement side. But does this bring back the argument that many people in the District of Columbia feel that they ought to be able to run their own city and not have to rely on the federal government?

NNAMDI: Were the District of Columbia a state and our current mayor, Muriel Bowser, the governor of that state, she would have been able to call out the National Guard. In the District of Columbia's current situation, she cannot do that. And all of the security were left up to the completely unprepared Capitol Police. The Capitol Police called on the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia for assistance. That was who first provided assistance. It was quite some time before they got around to bringing out the National Guard. If the District of Columbia were not the current legal and political entity that it is, this - much of it could have been avoided. It's one of the arguments that's being made for statehood for the District of Columbia.

SIMON: It's a historically Black city. And I wonder - this is something so deeply personal, to see Confederate flags, to see this upfront.

NNAMDI: It's a historically Black city. It used to be a majority Black city. And many of the newcomers who have come here have adapted to life in the District of Columbia, have found that they like life in the District of Columbia, have found that they love the diversity of the District of Columbia. And they too, I think, are joined with the historically Black District of Columbia in objecting to what are seen as outsiders invading our territory, so to speak.

SIMON: You've announced you're stepping down from your daily show in April. I think you're still going to do Friday, right?

NNAMDI: Yep - still going to do Fridays. You know how much I admired Dan Schorr.

SIMON: Yeah.

NNAMDI: And I always felt that I think I'd like to stick around as long as Dan Schorr did. But then I realized that's a tough task.

SIMON: I'm very glad your voice will be here over the next few months in particular.

NNAMDI: Thank you very much, Scott. Just make sure your voice stays with us for a much longer time.

SIMON: Kojo Nnamdi, host of WAMU's "Kojo Nnamdi Show," thanks so much.

NNAMDI: You're welcome, Scott. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.