Angry protests and inaugural celebrations play out side by side in Washington

America’s political divide split fully open on the streets of the nation’s capital Friday as Washington became a city of two peoples: The right gathered to celebrate Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, and the left marshaled passionate and occasionally violent protests against him.

Republicans visiting from across America greeted the morning warmly, heading early to the National Mall to hear their champion speak.

As Todd Hutchens stood on the National Mall, wearing a red “Make America great again” hat, tears filled his blue eyes. With the nation’s changing demographics, the 55-year-old risk management specialist from Lakeland, Fla., never thought he’d see another Republican president.

“It’s hard to even put into words. I’m really emotional about it,” Hutchens said. “The atmosphere, the energy that’s here, just the hope and optimism of everybody around here.”


When Trump appeared on the video screen, giving a thumbs-up, Hutchens gave one back, pumping his arm and smiling.

Yet beyond the metal barricades that ringed the ceremonies, the mood was much grimmer, and it would only grow darker as the day wore on. Thousands of left-leaning activists streamed into the city and large groups of them locked arms at security checkpoints, forcing Trump supporters to find other entrances.

It was a day of celebration and of chaos, ending with at least 217 arrests and six minor injuries to police officers as small groups of masked demonstrators smashed windows and set small fires around the city.

Throughout the night, they would continue to set trash cans and newspaper boxes alight; smoke spilled through intersections as nervous drivers and their often well-dressed passengers, apparently bound for the night’s celebrations, motored through.

But most of those who showed up at rallies across Washington were only quietly heard. Eva Watler came from Nashville in a red hat embroidered with the words, “Make racists afraid again.”

“We are regressing. I’m upset for my black and brown friends,” said Watler, 39.

Trump has drawn voices of opposition throughout the fractious campaign, but Friday’s protests in the capital took on a more serious and occasionally menacing tone.

Many demonstrators brought protest signs lettered in Cyrillic, or bearing the word “nyet,” or depicting Trump as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s puppet — allusions to Russia’s alleged interference to support his election.

Even more protesters cried out against fascism, bearing defiant signs that said, “Fighting Nazis is an American tradition” and “My WWII vet grandfather didn’t vote for fascists — HE SHOT THEM.”

Protesters represented a wide range of environmental, feminist or economic causes, many of them obviously planning to join a massive Women’s March on Washington expected Saturday.

Aaron Harnly, 39, of Brooklyn, marched with a sign that said, simply, “This is bad.”

“I’m pretty lucky in life,” Harnly said, expressing his thanks for having a good upbringing and education. “I’m just really, really, really worried about what this president is going to do with the many people who have luck running against them.”

Some Trump supporters said they were uncomfortable with the protesters’ presence.

Zachary Stump, a high school junior from Carroll County, Md., wearing a camouflage-colored Trump hat, came for the inauguration but found the day overwhelming. He said he was expecting “waves of Trump hats,” but felt outnumbered by protesters.

“It was kind of scary, really,” he said. “They were all chanting, and I didn’t really feel all that safe with this Trump hat on. But now, he’s finally inaugurated. He’s the president now. I’m overwhelmed with joy.”

Not everyone was bothered. Peggy O’Neil of nearby Arlington, Va., turned 18 on Thursday, a day before the inauguration. She said she and a group of friends waited for over three hours to get into the National Mall and missed the speeches because protesters were blocking the entrance. But she was beaming anyway.

The night of the election, she and her grandmother had stayed up past midnight, cheering as the results poured in.

“For me, this is so exciting,” she said. “It’s such a historic moment. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do for our country.”

The split-screen moments continued throughout the day. As Trump rode down the parade route in a limousine, several blocks away, an arsonist at 13th and K streets ignited another limousine, which had already been smashed by protesters.

Thick black smoke churned out of the vehicle, which had been sprayed with the words, “We the people” in gold paint.

At dinnertime, near the heart of the chaos, one young man burst into an Au Bon Pain restaurant and shouted an obscenity aimed at Trump, then darted away.

There was a brief moment of silence, then diners and employees picked up where they left off.



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