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Protesters clash as inauguration looms

Press Association logoPress Association 19/01/2017

Protesters have clashed with police outside a pro-Donald Trump rally in Washington DC, as tens of thousands of people prepare to take to the streets to oppose his presidency.

Demonstrators had gathered outside the National Press Club on Thursday night to oppose a group of Trump supporters who were staging a "DeploraBall", an event named after Hillary Clinton branded them a "basket of deplorables" during the election.

Footage posted on social media appeared to show police use pepper spray to disperse the protesters while smoke was also seen filling the street.

Police announced later that a man had been charged with conspiracy to commit an assault.

One man waving a pro-Trump flag had debris thrown at him and was chased to the nearby Warner Theater, where Fox News Channel personalities Sean Hannity and Geraldo Rivera happened to be outside waiting to go into another event.

Hannity engaged hecklers by raising his fist; Rivera laughed and smiled before entering the theatre.

The clashes came as tens of thousands of people prepare to stage protests in cities around the world on Friday when Mr Trump will be sworn in as US president.

Security officials have expressed concerns about possible clashes between supporters and opponents of Mr Trump in Washington, where up to 900,000 people are expected to watch him take the oath.

Coalition protest group DisruptJ20 has vowed to disrupt Mr Trump's inauguration and interfere with security checkpoints.

In contrast, Bikers For Trump will rally on Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate Mr Trump's inauguration.

The number of planned protests and rallies this year is far above what has been typical at recent presidential inaugurations, with some 30 permits granted in Washington for anti-Trump rallies and sympathy protests planned in cities from Boston to Los Angeles, and outside the US in cities including London and Sydney.

The night before the inauguration, thousands of people turned out in New York for a rally at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, and then marched a few blocks from the Trump Tower where the businessman lives.

The rally featured a line-up of politicians, activists and celebrities including Mayor Bill de Blasio and actor Alec Baldwin, who trotted out the Trump parody he performs on Saturday Night Live.

Outgoing Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said police aimed to keep groups separate, using tactics similar to those employed during last year's political conventions.

"The concern is some of these groups are pro-Trump, some of them are con-Trump, and they may not play well together in the same space," Johnson said on MSNBC.

the Lincoln Memorial in Washington © Provided by Press Association the Lincoln Memorial in Washington

About 28,000 security personnel, kilometres of fencing, roadblocks, street barricades and dump trucks laden with sand are part of the security cordon about eight square kilometres of central Washington.

Police and security officials have pledged repeatedly to guarantee protesters' constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.

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