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Numerous Inauguration Protests: From Nonviolent Chants to Bricks-in-Windows

Inauguration Day protests throughout D.C. take different tones

A shattered window of a Starbucks shop in downtown D.C. on Friday. (Matt Rhodes for CQ Roll Call)
A shattered window of a Starbucks shop in downtown D.C. on Friday. (Matt Rhodes for CQ Roll Call)

On Inaugural Day in Washington, some twenty-something, left-leaning protesters dressed in black threw bricks into the windows of local storefronts. Elsewhere, sixty-something antiwar activists held up colorful signs and coordinated peaceful chants.

And while police used pepper-spray to break up some demonstrators in downtown D.C., on another street a man wearing a cherry-red Make America Great Again baseball cap calmly chatted in the middle of 7th Street NW with a young man wearing a dark hood that enveloped his face.

Just before President Donald Trump took the oath of office, reporters, camera crews and people with camera phones all captured images of tumult and mayhem on the streets of the nation’s capital. Almost 100 people were arrested on Friday.

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“Police moving in big groups as they respond to the protests, which have spiraled out of control,” reporter Dave Lawler of the Daily Telegraph tweeted at 11:50 a.m. ET. 

D.C. police in riot gear on Friday before Trump is sworn in. (Matt Rhodes for CQ Roll Call)
D.C. police in riot gear on Friday before Trump is sworn in. (Matt Rhodes for CQ Roll Call)

Other scenes on the streets of Washington recalled protests from past decades, such as the scene at 10:45 a.m. of young demonstrators linked arm in arm on 6th Street NW.

For some Americans, the images of violence may have obscured the no less politically significant realities taking place blocks away on Capitol Hill. While other protesters huddled around laptops to stream the speech in parts of the city where it wasn’t broadcast on closed-circuit televisions like on the National Mall. 

At 3:45 a.m., Holland “Haneef” Ralston, 62, woke up at his home in Wilmington, Del., and climbed into his Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson truck. He picked up two of his lifelong friends Earl Woodlen, 60, and Curtis Brooks, 71, and a Muslim couple in their neighborhood and drove down 95 South for one-and-a-half hours until they arrived in Washington. This was most of their first political demonstration in Washington, although Woodlen attended the Million Man March in 1995.

At 10:30 a.m., Ralston stood halfway up the flight of stairs in back of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and shouted to passers-by his objections to the 45th president: “Donald Trump is a dud! Donald Trump is a dud!”

“We’ve got a three-pronged attack,” he said in a voice that could be heard for 200 to 300 feet. “We want to send a message to Trump, give our blessings to President Obama — and we know that like the pyramids in Egypt, building something together takes time.”

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At 11:59 a.m., David Kooper, 57, stood two blocks from the National Archives after he and his wife took a Vamoose bus from Beacon, N.Y., Thursday. In his hands was a handmade sign made of white plasterboard: “Trump is Putin’s ’Lil Bitch.” Obscenities dotted the placards of a few protesters. For Kooper the bigger obscenity was Trump’s favorable comments about the president of the Russian Federation.

“Putin invades Ukraine and Crimea. He bombs Aleppo, And Trump sidles up to him. It’s a disaster,” Kooper said.

Then Trump delivered his 1,400-word speech. “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” the new president said.

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Bonnie Freeman, 63, sat on a brown wooden bench at Bakers & Baristas on 7th and E streets NE and heard Trump’s words while watching the feed on a black Apple laptop computer. She was not impressed.

“I think it’s just rhetoric. It’s just bullshit,” she said. But the Los Angeles resident, who took to the streets in 2002 and 2003 to protest the Iraq War, said she wants to give the benefit of the doubt to the new president, especially on policies to help the working class.

“I want to believe,” she said. “I hope he does well.”