What a difference a day makes.
After a Friday that left both protestors and police bruised and bloodied – and saw motorists and pedestrians screaming for relief from road closures and barricades – it all seemed to evaporate into the foggy morning mist of Saturday.
Washington, D.C. police said that more than 200 protestors were arrested yesterday afternoon when largely peaceful protests following Donald Trump’s inauguration descended into violence near Franklin Square.
Rock-throwing protestors injured six police officers during brief but intense clashes that also included several small fires, the vandalization of vehicles and destruction of some storefronts.
But today, an altogether different mood prevailed; most roads and bridges that had been closed to traffic were reopened, as crews worked throughout the night to dismantle and remove the metal fences and concrete partitions that created a massive security perimeter around the core of the city.
All this came just in time for yet another day of demonstrations – demonstrations that couldn’t have been more different than those of the day before.
The 2017 Women’s March on Washington wasn’t slated to begin until 10 a.m., but by 8 this morning, large knots of pedestrians – identifiable by their pink attire – began striding towards the event, some walking from as far as Arlington, Virginia across the Francis Scott Key Bridge.
It was wholly apparent even in those early hours that the attendance of the march would exceed estimates by police and organizers; no quarter of the district was untouched by the presence of men, women and children of all ages and colors, toting signs and banners, or wearing colorful costumes.
Some had come from across the region, the country or even the world to protest what they said were Trump’s policy priorities that could endanger the health and equality of women and LGBT groups.
By the end of the march – which began with a star-studded lineup of speakers who riled up a cheek-to-jowl crowd behind the Smithsonian Institution on Constitution Ave. for over three hours – there weren’t even whispers of the violence or confrontations with law enforcement like the ones yesterday.
Local media estimated the crowd at half a million; notably, the only things that crowd threw around were phrases like “excuse me,” “sorry,” and “thank you for your service” to the legions of law enforcement personnel lining the route.
Hillary Clinton emerged from the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building this morning, clad in white and looking out over a crowd of thousands who’d assembled on the west lawn.
But she wasn’t there to take the oath of office; instead, she could only watch as the man who stunned her and much of America by winning the election Nov. 8 took the oath and the office for himself.
Clinton was there only as the wife of a former president; the ceremony that accompanies America’s peaceful transfer of power has always recognized a number of honored guests, including members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and surviving former presidents.
That crowd of thousands – dotted with the now-iconic red hats – gave a measured response each time one was introduced and seated.
President Jimmy Carter received a respectful round of applause. At 92 years of age, Carter is the oldest surviving former president. His successor, Ronald Reagan, passed away in 2004, and his successor, George H. Bush, is currently resting comfortably in the intensive care unit of Houston Methodist Hospital.
But Bush’s successor, William Jefferson Clinton, was in attendance with former first lady and former Democratic nominee for the presidency Hillary Rodham Clinton.
When the Clintons were announced, a rousing chorus of boos rose from an audience that refused to grant her any dignity in her defeat.
George W. Bush looked happier and healthier than he ever did as president, and garnered perhaps the most applause of any former president in attendance.
Even the Obamas – President Barack and wife Michelle – as well as Vice President Biden and wife Dr. Jill Biden received a surprisingly polite and healthy acknowledgement from the crowd that seemed genuine, and not in a “so long!” kind of way.
Obama’s successor, Donald John Trump, was greeted by cheers and chants of “USA! USA!” and “MAGA!” as he repeated the oath Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts read to him.
Disruptions were few; a Code Pink protestor was led out of the ceremony by police while chanting and holding a “refugees welcome” banner, as were several others.
The real action began after the inauguration.
Protestors gathered around Franklin Square openly smoked marijuana, pumped signs in the air, climbed atop bus shelters and traffic signals, chanted slogans and cajoled Washington, D.C. police, who were clad in riot gear, complete with batons and shields.
After starting a small fire in the street, fueled by trash cans, newspaper boxes and naked rage, protestors were warned to clear out so firefighters could extinguish the flames.
They refused, and all hell broke loose.
A limousine had its windows smashed out and was set alight; a nearby Starbucks – for some reason, always a convenient target for protestors – saw its plate glass reduced to millions of shards of sparkly gravel on the sidewalk as the biting smell of mace clouded the air.
Flashbangs were detonated and tear gas was uncorked as protestors fled down K Street, adding further mayhem to a Friday D.C. rush hour already made trying by the events of the week.
Few presidents have seen such outright contempt even as their terms were in such infancy; sure, Nixon was despised by many, and the second Bush (along with Vice President Dick Cheney) earned the ire of millions. But this one – Trump – seems poised to top them all.
The question remains, however – had Hillary Clinton taken that oath and that office this morning, would disgruntled Trump supporters have raised such a fuss?
Check back for nightly updates and for continuing coverage of the 2017 Presidential Inauguration on www.smokymountainnews.com, or follow along on SMN’s social media platforms, including on Facebook at www.facebook.com/smnews and www.twitter.com/SmokyMtnNews. Also, don’t miss the Wednesday, Jan. 25 issue of SMN, which will feature expanded coverage of the inauguration as well as the usual mix of news, opinion, A&E, outdoors and more.
Listen to Cory Vaillancourt's report from Washington on North Carolina Public Radio WCQS: at http://wcqs.org/post/wnc-delegation-trump-inauguration
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