NEWS

Trump Supporters Cheered, But On The Sidelines Protesters Clashed With Police

There were about 28,000 security officers watching over less than 10 square km in Washington.

20/01/2017 23:44 SAST | Updated 21/01/2017 00:21 SAST
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A protester holds up a sign as people wait to see U.S. President Donald Trump in the inaugural parade in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

America's political divisions turned violent on the streets of Washington during U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday, as black clad anti-establishment activists smashed store windows and clashed with police while Trump supporters cheered the new man in the White House.

Hundreds of people, some wearing masks, marched through downtown streets, using hammers to claw up chunks of pavement to smash the windows of a Bank of America branch and a McDonald's outlet, all symbols of American capitalism.

REUTERS
Activists race after being hit by a stun grenade while protesting against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A knot of people dragged garbage cans into a street a few blocks from the White House and set them ablaze, later throwing a red cap with Republican Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan into the flames.

The various protest groups scattered around the city chanted anti-Trump slogans and carried signs with slogans including "Trump is not president" and "Make Racists Afraid Again."

Bryan Woolston / Reuters
Police officers move protestors away from a car that was set on fire during protests near the inauguration of President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Not all the demonstrators were anti-Trump. Members of Bikers for Trump assembled near the start of the route the new president took to the White House, shrugging off Trump opponents who briefly engaged them in a shouting match.

"They're just trying to argue," said a member of the bikers' group, Donald Gregory, 53, of North Carolina. "We finally have someone we can root for."

Washington's interim police chief, Peter Newsham, told NBC's local affiliate that the violent protests were "mostly under control." He said about 95 people had been arrested.

Police said in a statement they had charged an unspecified number of people with rioting and that two police officers sustained minor injuries from people who were trying to avoid arrest.

The U.S. Secret Service, Washington police and other law enforcement agencies had about 28,000 officers in place to secure a roughly three-square-mile (7.8 square km) of the city.

"Trump is not going to be stopped at the top, he's going to be stopped from the bottom, from people rising up," said Ben Allen, a 69-year-old retired teacher from San Francisco. "We support the right of everybody in this country, no matter what nationality, what religion, the color of their skin, to be respected as a human being, and this guy doesn't respect anybody."

It was a populist and nationalist rallying cry

During the election campaign and New York businessman Trump's surprising rise to power, some of his rhetoric was interpreted as racist and anti-immigration. His inauguration speech was a populist and nationalist rallying cry.

Protesters and police said the black-clad violent activists were acting independently of organized opposition to Trump.

The Disrupt J20 group on Twitter said its anger was not directed only at Trump, that it would also have demonstrated had Democrat Hillary Clinton won the election last November.

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Protesters demonstrating against U.S. President Donald Trump raise their hands as they are surrounded by police on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, DC, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Not far from the White House, Bob Hrifko, a member of the Bikers for Trump group, was struck in the face with an aluminum chair when he tried to intervene in a scuffle involving police and protesters.

"I know, law and order and all that. We need more order. This ain't right," said Hrifko, who was bleeding from a cut under his eye.

The number of people who turned out for the midday swearing-in ceremony in the rain appeared to be significantly smaller than the estimated 2 million who attended Democrat Barack Obama's first inauguration in 2009. Overhead video of the National Mall showed sections of the white matting laid down to protect the grass were largely empty.

Trump supporters Chris and Karen Korthaus, who carried a life-size cardboard cutout of the former reality TV star, crossed paths with an anti-Trump crowd.

"A protester came over and ripped off the Don's head," Karen Korthaus said as she showed a reporter a video of the incident. "We ran to a pizza shop and taped his head back on."

Along the stretch of Washington where the rioters smashed windows, workers cleaned up the debris.

"We're just working, and the next thing you know, violence is coming our way," said Edwin Garcia, 26, a cook at an Au Bon Pain where three windows were shattered. "What was the point if they never got to where Trump is?"

Protests around the world

There were also protests around the world.

In Tokyo, several hundred people, most of them expatriate Americans, protested against Trump. In London, activists draped a banner across the British capital's iconic Tower Bridge reading "Build bridges not walls," a reference to Trump's promise to wall off the U.S.-Mexico border. But in Moscow, Russians hoping Trump will usher in a new era of detente with their country celebrated his inauguration.

(Additional reporting by David Lawder, Joel Schectman, Mike Stone, Matt Spetalnick, Jonathan Landay and Phil Stewart; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Paul Simao and Grant McCool)

REUTERS
Protesters clash with police while demonstrating against U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, DC, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif