President Donald Trump parades through Washington as unprecedented clashes erupt just a few blocks away

He was previously best known as the host of 'The Apprentice'. Now he is America's president 

Andrew Buncombe
Washington DC
Saturday 21 January 2017 00:21 GMT
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Trump inauguration: Protests turn violent

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Louise Thomas

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When Donald Trump made his way to the White House after he had been sworn in as the country’s 45th President, he may, or may not, have been able to detect the whiff of burning.

Just a couple of hours before Mr Trump sat and watched a military parade and prepared to head off to the traditional inaugural balls, protesters had clashed with riot police in streets not far away, an event unprecedented at a presidential inauguration. Protesters set fire to at least one vehicle and smashed windows, while police fired tear gas and pushed people back with shields. More than 200 people were arrested and six police officers were hurt.

When he spoke to the nation on Friday afternoon for the first time after taking the 35-word oath with which he became president, Mr Trump delivered a populist, nationalist rallying cry in which he vowed that “this moment on, it’s going to be America first”.

Mr Trump's inauguration was met with protests that sometimes turned violent (Andrew Buncombe )
Mr Trump's inauguration was met with protests that sometimes turned violent (Andrew Buncombe ) (Andrew Buncombe)

But even as he was delivering his speech in a grey, rain-spattered city, it was clear that many of those gathered in Washington DC did not accept him as their president. Reuters said that aerial pictures of the crowds of Mr Trump’s supporters on the Mall showed a much smaller turnout than eight years ago, when Barack Obama, the outgoing commander-in-chief, was himself sworn in. Estimates of Friday’s crowd size were not immediately available.

Washington’s K Street is known as the heart of the city’s lobbying industry, part of the “swamp” that Mr Trump has vowed to drain. Yet on Friday, it was also the site of the worst clashes with police.

Outside the offices of the Washington Post newspaper, protesters smashed in the windows of and then set fire to a parked limousine. Before fire services and police could intervene, an anarchist symbol and the words "We The People" were daubed on its side.

Mirroring the inaugural parade going on a few blocks away, protesters linked arms and marched chanting "No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA". They tried to face off with police lines, who deployed streams of pepper spray.

Protesters registered their rage against the new president Friday in a chaotic confrontation with police who used pepper spray and stun grenades in a melee just blocks from Donald Trump's inaugural parade route. Scores were arrested for trashing property and attacking officers
Protesters registered their rage against the new president Friday in a chaotic confrontation with police who used pepper spray and stun grenades in a melee just blocks from Donald Trump's inaugural parade route. Scores were arrested for trashing property and attacking officers (AP)

Some protesters said that police had acted without need, choosing to push back demonstrators. Others said that a small number of demonstrators had been violent.

At another flash point, one protester hurled an object through the passenger window of a police van, which sped away in reverse as demonstrators cheered. Earlier, activists wearing masks used chunks of pavement and baseball bats to shatter the windows of a branch of Bank of America and a McDonald's restaurant, apparently targeted as overt symbols of American capitalism.

Smaller sympathy protests were due to be staged in cities across America and the world. In San Francisco, thousands formed a human chain on the Golden Gate Bridge and chanted "Love Trumps hate". In the city's financial district, a few hundred protesters blocked traffic outside an office building partly owned by Trump.

In Atlanta, protests converged at City Hall and a few hundred people chanted and waved signs protesting Trump, denouncing racism and police brutality and expressing support for immigrants, Muslims and the Black Lives Matter movement.

And in Nashville, half a dozen protesters chained themselves to the doors of the Tennessee Capitol. Hundreds also sat in a 10-minute silent protest at a park while Trump took the oath of office. Organisers led a prayer, sang patriotic songs and read the Declaration of Independence aloud.

Lessons in eloquence with Obama and Trump

In Washington it was a minority of protesters who took to violence, with the vast majority remaining peaceful, if frequently noisy. They ranged from a group of gay friends who had travelled from New York to demonstrate against a man they fear will permit the regression of LGBT rights, to an immigrant from Nicaragua - a US citizen for 30 years - who flew from Atlanta to highlight Mr Trump’s frequently bigoted and racist words about Hispanics.

“The night he was elected, it felt as though somebody in my family had died. There was such grief,” said Victoria Najlis, standing with a banner on Pennsylvania Avenue, waiting for Mr Trump to make his way past on route to the White House. “I am very worried about what will happen to immigrants in this country.”

David Beigel, a child psychologist from Washington, said he believed America had been founded on a idea of fairness towards each other, along with freedom of speech. He did not believe that Mr Trump would support that.

“We just elected a half-logical narcissist who wants to turn things back to the 1950s when any sort of dissent got met by McCarthyism” he said.

It would be wrong by some margin to say that Mr Trump did not have his supporters among the crowds, or lining up along the parade route.

One elderly couple from Alabama stood with their eyes were shut as the inauguration service prayers were broadcast over loudspeakers. Around them people booed and jeered, but the couple, were steadfast.

“Morals, the economy and education,” said the woman, gave her name as Beth, when asked what she hoped Mr Trump would bring. Asked whether she really thought the man caught on video boasting about sexually assaulting women would be help boost the nation’s moral character, she said: “Well, it can’t be worse than it is now.”

Tom Campbell, a service technician from Yorktown, Virginia, was another supporter of Mr Trump. “We voted for him because we did not want Hillary Clinton imposing her liberal agenda,” he said.

In his speech, Mr Trump claimed that the US had enriched foreign industry at the expense of American companies. He also claimed it had subsidised the armies of other countries while letting the US military become depleted, and spent trillions abroad while allowing U.S. infrastructure to crumble. Three other US presidents sat and listened.

“The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world,” he said.

“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”

Leslie Lamb, stood at one of the Washington junctions that had been shut off by riot police, said the new President would be held to his promises.

“He thinks he is going to get away with what he wants,” she said of Mr Trump. “But he is answerable to us, the people.”

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