Friday, January 20, 2017
WASHINGTON (AP) — Calling out Donald Trump on climate change, race, his treatment of women and more, protesters pitching diverse causes but united against the incoming president demonstrated in the early hours of Inauguration Day, intent on making their mark as Trump prepared to take office.
Spirited demonstrations unfolded at various security checkpoints near the Capitol as police in riot gear helped ticket-holders get through to the inaugural ceremony. Signs read "Resist Trump Climate Justice Now," ''Let Freedom Ring," ''Free Palestine."
The DisruptJ20 coalition, named after the date of the inauguration, had promised that people participating in its actions in Washington would attempt to shut down the celebrations, risking arrest when necessary.
Lines for ticket holders entering two gates stretched for blocks at one point as protesters clogged entrances.
Trump supporter Brett Ecker said the protesters were frustrating but weren't going to put a damper on his day.
"They're just here to stir up trouble," said the 36-year-old public school teacher. "It upsets me a little bit that people choose to do this, but yet again it's one of the things I love about this country."
At one checkpoint, protesters wore orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their faces to represent prisoners in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay. Eleanor Goldfield, who helped organize the Disrupt J20 protest, said protesters wanted to show Trump and his "misguided, misinformed or just plain dangerous" supporters that they won't be silent.
Black Lives Matter and feminist groups also made their voices heard.
More demonstrations were planned for later in the day. For one DisruptJ20 event, a march beginning at Columbus Circle outside Union Station, participants were asked to gather at noon, the same time as Trump's swearing-in as the 45th president.
The route for the march, which organizers called a "Festival of Resistance," ran about 1.5 miles to McPherson Square, a park about three blocks from the White House, where a rally featuring the filmmaker and liberal activist Michael Moore was planned.
"We're going to throw a party in the streets for our side," organizer David Thurston told reporters last week, adding that drummers, musicians and a float of dancers were planned for the march.
Along the parade route, the ANSWER Coalition anti-war group planned demonstrations at two locations.
Protesters and supporters of Trump clashed Thursday evening outside a pro-Trump event in Washington. Police used chemical spray on some protesters in an effort to control the unruly crowd. Hundreds gathered outside the National Press Club in downtown Washington, where the "DeploraBall" was being held. The name is a play on a campaign remark by Hillary Clinton, who once referred to many of Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables."
The demonstrations won't end when Trump takes up residence in the White House. A massive Women's March on Washington is planned for Saturday. Christopher Geldart, the District of Columbia's homeland security director, has said 1,800 buses have registered to park in the city Saturday, which could mean nearly 100,000 people coming in just by bus.
Jim Bendat, an expert on inaugural history, said significant protests surrounding Inauguration Day go back at least to 1913, when suffragettes marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Richard Nixon's first and second inaugurations drew memorable protests, he said, with demonstrators at the second inauguration angry about the Vietnam War. During President George W. Bush's 2001 inauguration, demonstrators along the parade route turned their backs as the president passed by and others held signs like "Hail to the thief," suggesting Bush had stolen the election from Democrat Al Gore. At least one egg thrown from the crowd hit the presidential limousine. In 2005, demonstrators disrupted Bush's inaugural address.
Bendat said it's to be expected that after such a contentious election, demonstrators will come to Washington to express their opinions.
"That's part of democracy, too," he said.