Police deployed pepper spray in a chaotic confrontation a few blocks away from Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington yesterday as protesters registered their rage against the incoming president.
Spirited demonstrations unfolded peacefully at various security checkpoints near the Capitol as police helped ticket-holders get through to the inaugural ceremony. Signs read, “Resist Trump Climate Justice Now,” “Let Freedom Ring,” “Free Palestine”.
But at one point, police gave chase to a group of about 100 protesters who smashed the windows of downtown businesses as they denounced capitalism and Trump. Police in riot gear used pepper spray and eventually cordoned off the protesters, who shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” as a helicopter hovered overhead.
The confrontation happened about an hour before Trump’s swearing-in at the Capitol.
Closer to that scene, lines for ticket holders entering two gates stretched for blocks at one point as protesters clogged entrances.
Earlier, 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.
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 US detention at Guantanamo Bay. Eleanor Goldfield, who helped organise 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.
Most Trump supporters walking to the inauguration past Union Station ignored protesters outside the train station, but not Doug Rahm, who engaged in a lengthy and sometimes profane yelling match with them.
“Get a job,” said Rahm, a Bikers for Trump member from Philadelphia. “Stop crying snowflakes, Trump won.”
Outside the International Spy Museum, protesters in Russian hats ridiculed Trump’s praise of President Vladimir Putin, marching with signs calling Trump “Putin’s Puppet” and “Kremlin employee of the month”.
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 organisers 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,” organiser 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 on Thursday evening outside a pro-Trump event in Washington. Police used chemical spray on some protesters in an effort to control the unruly crowd. A massive Women’s March on Washington is planned for today.