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Violent Anti-Trump Protests Lead to 217 Arrests on Inauguration Day

Variety logo Variety 1/20/2017 Cynthia Littleton

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 200 protestors were arrested in Washington, D.C., on Friday as Donald Trump was sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. Shortly before the inauguration ceremony, violent protests erupted along Washington’s K Street corridor when demonstrators threw rocks at police and storefront windows and set trash cans on fire. Later in the day, a parked limousine was trashed and set on fire near the spot where windows of the Hamilton hotel and a Starbucks were boarded up from the morning’s violence.

Washington, D.C. officials said 217 people were arrested following the morning scuffle with police. Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser emphasized that the majority of the hundreds of people who took to the streets to protest Trump’s policies did so peacefully. Violence and destruction of property will not be tolerated, she said at an evening news conference.

“People are free to exercise their rights to protest, but stop destroying the city,” she said.

Officials said seven of D.C.’s Metropolitan Police officers suffered minor injuries in the scuffle.

The influx of visitors on Friday created a palpable sense of tension on the streets of Washington, turning it into a microcosm of the country’s many political and cultural divisions. Trump supporters wearing “Make America Great Again” hats couldn’t help but encounter protesters and the hordes of women who poured into the city Friday in preparation for Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington.

That made for fraught moment in many corners of the city. In a sandwich shop not far from the National Mall, patrons opposed to Trump spoke loudly about their disdain for the new president while a group of four men bedecked in pro-Trump hats and T-shirts sat in a corner.

Bowser said she did not expect Saturday’s Women’s March to be unruly. The protesters at the center of the disturbance on Friday included some young women, but there was also a clear distinction between the more militant activists and the large numbers of women who poured into the city on Friday. At the Union Station subway station on Friday, there was a long line stretching onto the street of women, many of them toting rollaboard suitcases and backpacks, who faced a long wait just to buy a Metro pass.

As the number of sign-wielding and fist-waving protestors swelled in K Street’s Franklin Square, younger Trump supporters began filtering in on the edge of the crowd. It wasn’t long before taunts and yelling ensued. At one point on Friday afternoon, there were dueling chants of “Not my president” and “Trump, Trump, Trump.” A small but vocal group of young men who favor Trump began singing the 1960s hit “Na Na Na, Hey, Hey, Goodbye” and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” as a young woman with a bullhorn led a small group in chanting “No KKK, no fascist USA.” The mood was combustible, to say the least. Numerous protestors were critical of those who engaged in violence. “Guys, that’s what they want,” a young man implored as others rushed in to help set trash cans on fire.

If trouble flares again in Washington’s streets as night falls, the Trump  administration may well face a test of its law-and-order campaign promises on the first day of his presidency.

After the morning violence, the K Street locus of Friday’s protest turned chaotic again around 4 p.m. ET. A parked limo that had its windows smashed in earlier in the day was set ablaze, creating a fireball and toxic cloud of black smoke. A few municipal trash cans were dragged into the middle of the street and set ablaze. A fire truck quickly doused the flames of the limo, but police decided to move the crowd off the street next to Franklin Square. Flash grenades went off, prompting a mini stampede on K Street between 12th and 14th streets.

Meanwhile, plenty of inauguration-goers threaded through the edge of the protest crowds on their way to hotels and restaurants, making for bizarre contrasts. Women in ball gowns and men in tuxes were forced to move around young adults with crude sayings (“F— Trump,” “Keep Your Hands Off My Pussy,” etc.) on their signs and T-shirts.

Overall, the protestors seemed to be only loosely organized. Pro-socialism groups were on hand, along with Code Pink activists and the anti-globalization activists who attend marches with bandannas covering their faces.

Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party presidential candidate, was on the scene in the afternoon. She was seen thanking some protestors and a volunteer team of medics for their commitment to taking action on Inauguration Day, although she did not expressly condone the violent acts.

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