Protesters Attempt to Disrupt Inaugural Events in Washington
As Donald Trump’s election victory was cemented during celebratory inauguration events in the nation’s capital, the dissent and divisive discord his campaign produced was evident on the streets of Washington DC as throngs of protesters arrived to disrupt proceedings.
A large group of activists from the anarchist group known as the black bloc smashed storefront windows and cars as they clashed with police shortly before the swearing-in ceremony was due to begin. Officers in riot gear responded with pepper spray and stun grenades as the breakaway protesters were overwhelmed with force less than two miles from the US Capitol.
The group of around 200 people, many wearing black hoodies and masks, were eventually contained by officers as they chanted: “This is what a police state looks like” and “You’re protecting fascists.” Eyewitnesses reported only a handful of arrests.
Most of the protesters declined to be interviewed or named, but one said their purpose was to reject “a system of economic exploitation called capitalism.”
“It’s not just about no order,” he said. “It’s about human freedom and an economy that’s run by the people.”
Another group of activists attempted to shut down a number of the security points allowing access to the public viewing area of the inauguration on the National Mall on Friday morning.
The small groups at these checkpoints, organised by a group named Disrupt J20, linked arms as some members were led away by police wearing body armor. The organization claimed on social media that they had temporarily shut down a number of the dozen checkpoints around the Mall, with a group of Black Lives Matter protesters reportedly closing access at one location for over an hour.
Hundreds of protesters appeared to have gained access to the public viewing areas on the Mall, many chanting “not my president” and holding signs with slogans including “Can we impeach him today?” and “Fascist.”
As the chief justice, John Roberts, rose to administer the oath of office for the incoming president, six protesters, seated on the lawn just in front of the steps to the Capitol, tore off their coats, jumped on to their chairs and began chanting.
“A nation united can never be divided,” they said. Together the letters on their shirts spelled: “Resist!”
Around them, supporters shouted and called for them to leave. A man shook their chairs until one of the protesters fell. Eventually, security arrived and they were removed from the event.
The focal point for many was likely to be an organized rally being held at the US Navy Memorial, which is situated along the inaugural parade route. Dozens of speakers from activist groups around the country were addressing a crowd of a few hundred people on Friday morning, as some complained that “thousands more” were waiting to get into the rally but had been prevented from entering by the secret service.
James Ebersole, a protester who had come to Washington from Virginia, said he had decided to come to DC in order to “voice dissent, to say that this is not OK.”
“I think it’s unifying people,” he said of Trump’s election, while brandishing a sign that read “Misogyny is a danger to society.”
“It’s a call to action, a wakeup call, and it unites us against this threat.”
Barbara McQueeney had never attended an inauguration before, but she felt compelled to fly out from St Augustine, Florida, to protest outside the barricades lining the National Mall.
“I live in an area where there’s a lot of Trump supporters and I’m crushed,” she said. “We need hope.”
McQueeney, who is retired, did not engage in much shouting. She instead stood quietly at the center of a protest lifting a homemade poster with the letters USSR spelling out “United States Satellite of Russia.”
“Everyone knows they were involved,” she said of Vladimir Putin’s government, “but everyone is just going forward like it’s business as usual.”
“This day is about celebrating a peaceful transfer of power, but it’s the first time we transferred from a free country to a country that’s influenced by a foreign power.”
Hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Washington for a Women’s March that is scheduled for Saturday, with similar events organized in cities around the country.
On Thursday night police used pepper spray to disperse protesters as chaos erupted outside an event, named the DeploraBall, attended by a number of figures associated with the so-called “alt-right,” a far-right movement that endorsed Trump during the campaign.
“Nazi scum!” a masked man yelled through a police barricade at a woman in a sequined gown as she defiantly waved her ticket for the event. A woman held a sign that read “Look, Ma. It’s a racist misogynist” with an arrow pointed toward the guest line. In response a man flipped open his suit jacket to show her his shirt, which read: “Deplorable lives matter.”