Pomp Mixes With Whiff of Tear Gas for Trump’s Inauguration

  • Scattered violent clashes during inauguration festivities
  • Partisan divide in evidence at ceremony, on streets of city

Protesters Clash With Police on D.C. Streets

The tension and division of the campaign that elected Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president rippled through the pomp and ceremony of his inauguration.

Violent confrontations erupted between police and protesters even before the first notes of “Hail to the Chief” were heard as Trump formally assumed office. 

About hour before the inaugural ceremony got under way, a crowd of as many as 500 black-clad and masked young men and women, some armed with crowbars and hammers, marauded through a commercial district a few blocks from the White House, smashing windows of banks, coffee shops and other businesses. On a stone planter, someone spray-painted a symbol of the anarchist movement. 

Police, including SWAT teams, pursued the demonstrators and doused them with pepper spray, eventually cornering a portion of the group. Washington interim Police Chief Peter Newsham said 217 people were arrested and six officers suffered minor injuries.

Police use pepper spray on crowds in Washington.

Photographer: Zach Gibson/AFP/Getty Images

Shortly after the inaugural ceremony ended another clash occurred in the same area and appeared to involve some of the earlier protesters. Stones and other debris were hurled at police, who responded with tear gas. More store windows were smashed and cars were vandalized, including a limousine that was set on fire. Near one park in downtown Washington that had become a congregation point, trash cans and newspaper boxes were pulled into the glass-littered street and set on fire. On several streets, police in riot gear stood in formation to block movement.

James Rosheger, 53, of Atlanta, stood in front of a nearby deli at a distance from the group. Though opposed to Trump himself, Rosheger said the protesters there were obstructing one of the parade’s controlled entry points, thus impeding the right of Trump’s supporters to assemble at the parade route.

“I don’t agree with that,” he said, holding a sign reading “Fear Ignorance, Not Muslims” in his right hand and another reading “Truth and Integrity Matter” in his left.

‘Small Disturbance’

Newsham, in a briefing, characterized the violent protesters as a “small group” compared with the thousands of others in the city to demonstrate and said their actions were “organized and intentional.”

Other demonstrators earlier crowded around security checkpoints near the city center, blocking some access points for those holding tickets for the swearing-in at the West Front of the Capitol or who wanted a glimpse of the inaugural parade.

Hillary and Bill Clinton arrive ahead of the inauguration.

Photographer: Win McNamee/Pool via Bloomberg

On the grounds of the Capitol, a smattering of boos greeted Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump’s election opponent, as she arrived with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. There were a few chants of “lock her up” from some seated in the prime viewing area just a few feet from where the oath of office was administered to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

‘Be Polite’

At least some in the crowd near the Capitol were uncomfortable with the occasional booing and catcalls aimed at Democrats.

People watch the inauguration ceremony in Washington.

Photographer: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“Let’s be polite,” said Dawn Manhart, 42, who had traveled from Plano, Texas, to see the swearing in. She was responding to the crowd’s reaction when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who had run against Clinton in the Democratic primary, was displayed on large video screens.

Drama was more the exception than the norm as the rituals of the day prevailed. Trump and his wife, Melania, had morning tea with the Obamas at the White House before heading to the Capitol. Invocations were delivered, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed, and Trump recited the oath of office administered by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The crowd began assembling on the Capitol grounds hours before the ceremony began, coping with occasional light rain. It was thinner than at inaugurations of the recent past. The Washington Metro system reported clocking 193,000 trips for the day as of 11 a.m., compared with 513,000 for former President Barack Obama’s swearing-in in 2009 and 317,000 for his second inaugural. For former President George W. Bush’s second inaugural, Metro ridership was 197,000 at the same time.

Divided Nation

The raw emotions and sparse attendance were a reflection of a country divided over a president who enters office with a historically low approval rating. Trump is the first president since the dawn of national polling in the late 1930s to enter office with the approval of fewer than half of Americans -- in his case only 40 percent, according to Gallup.

Former President Obama waves as he departs the inauguration.

Photographer: Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

While the new president lunched with members of Congress, Obama and his family were already aboard a military jet heading to a vacation in Palm Springs, California. Throngs of Trump supporters, the curious and the dissenters began collecting along Pennsylvania Avenue, the broad thoroughfare between the Capitol and the White House, to await the traditional parade.

Protesters marching along the parade route chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Trump has got to go.” Trump supporters responded with “Trump is here to stay” and “Build the wall” cheers.

Trump rode in the armored presidential limousine, known as The Beast, through most of the parade, ahead of more than 8,000 participants that included high school and university marching bands, police and emergency workers and veterans groups. The president emerged briefly from the vehicle and walked for less than a block as the entourage approached his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Trump, first lady Melania Trump and the rest of his family also walked part of the span of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House before heading to the reviewing stand.

‘Kindness Not Walls’

Anna Gabrielsen, 30, drove more than 10 hours from Atlanta to Washington with her wife, Natalie Gabrielsen, 32, and stood along the route with fluorescent green handwritten posters saying, “Build kindness not walls.”

“We felt it was important to come out here,” Anna said, adding that they were concerned about Trump’s cabinet picks. “There’s a lot of discrimination and hatred.”

“We’ve seen this before,” she said of hate speech toward blacks, Muslims and gays.

Mark Cash, 19, a community college student from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, stood along the parade route wearing a poncho and “Make America Great Again” hat and a Trump button.

Attendees listen at the National Mall in Washington.

Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

He said he was initially “on the fence” during the presidential campaigns, but Trump won him over. And he said he’s hoping the new president can stop illegal immigration and fix the system. He said his mother was from Mexico and had to wait years going through the legal process to get American citizenship.

Angel Schultz, a 32-year-old massage therapist from Cumberland, Maryland, said she was “very happy, absolutely ecstatic” about Trump, adding that she voted for the president and that this is her first inauguration. 

Washington also was girding for a large-scale demonstration on Saturday, when as many as 200,000 people were expected for what’s being called the Women’s March on Washington. Similar protests were scheduled in New York and other large cities across the country.

— With assistance by Nafeesa Syeed, Sahil Kapur, Ari Natter, Ryan Beene, Sho Chandra, Terrence Dopp, Alan Levin, and Laura Curtis

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