Protesters make their mark on Trump's inauguration
WASHINGTON: Bearing signs reading "Let freedom ring" and "Free Palestine," protesters pitching diverse causes but united against the incoming president demonstrated in the early hours of Inauguration Day, intent on making their mark as Donald Trump prepared to take office.
Dozens lined up across a security checkpoint near the Capitol, some wearing orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their faces to represent prisoners in US 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.
Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to fill the capital to witness the inauguration. Some protesters planned to do their best to derail the celebrations.
Late Thursday evening, protesters and supporters of Trump clashed 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."
In New York, actors Robert De Niro, Sally Field and Mark Ruffalo joined hundreds of other people outside a Donald Trump building on Thursday for a pre-inauguration demonstration.
More demonstrations were underway Friday. The DisruptJ20 coalition, named after the date of the inauguration, said people participating in its actions in Washington would attempt to shut down or cause delays at security checkpoints going into the inauguration ceremony. They intended to block checkpoints and in some cases risk arrest.
"Our goals are to have to have massive protests and to shut down the inauguration if at all possible, and if not possible if we can't shut the inauguration down then make it as difficult as possible for Trump to act as if he has a mandate," organizer David Thurston told reporters last week.
Not everyone planned to be disruptive. 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," Thurston said, 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.
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.