Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to fill the nation’s capital for the inauguration of Donald Trump, and while the majority of those expected in Washington on Friday will be there to celebrate, some protesters say their plan is to do their best to disrupt the day.
Late Thursday evening, protesters and supporters of Trump clashed outside a pro-Trump event in Washington. Police used chemical spray on some protesters in an effort to control the unruly crowd. Hundreds gathered outside the National Press Club in downtown Washington, where the “DeploraBall” was being held. The name is a play on a campaign remark by Hillary Clinton, who once referred to many of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”
In New York, actors Robert De Niro, Sally Field and Mark Ruffalo joined hundreds of other people outside a Donald Trump building on Thursday for a pre-inauguration demonstration.
More demonstrations are expected Friday. A coalition calling itself DisruptJ20, after the date of the inauguration, says people participating in its actions in Washington will attempt to shut down or cause delays at security checkpoints going in to the inauguration ceremony. They intend to block checkpoints and in some cases risk arrest.
“Our goals are to have to have massive protests and to shut down the inauguration if at all possible, and if not possible — if we can’t shut the inauguration down — then make it as difficult as possible for Trump to act as if he has a mandate,” organizer David Thurston told reporters last week.
But not everyone plans to be disruptive. One DisruptJ20 event is a march that will begin at Columbus Circle, outside Union Station. Participants are being asked to gather at noon, the same time Trump is being sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. The march, which organizers are calling a “Festival of Resistance,” will travel about 1.5 miles to McPherson Square, a park about three blocks from the White House, where a rally including filmmaker and liberal activist Michael Moore is planned.
“We’re going to throw a party in the streets for our side,” Thurston said, adding that drummers, musicians and a float of dancers were planned for the march.
Along the official parade route, Trump can expect demonstrations, too. The anti-war group the ANSWER Coalition will demonstrate at two locations there.
The demonstrations won’t end when Trump takes up residence in the White House. A massive Women’s March on Washington is planned for Saturday. Organizers have estimated 200,000 people will attend their event. Christopher Geldart, the District of Columbia’s homeland security director, has said 1,800 buses have registered to park in the city Saturday, which would mean nearly 100,000 people coming in just by bus.
Jim Bendat, an expert on inaugural history, said significant protests surrounding Inauguration Day go back at least 100 years to 1913 when suffragettes marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. Bendat, the author of “Democracy’s Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President, 1789-2013,” said protests have been a constant, though there have been “small ones and there’s some bigger ones.”
Richard Nixon’s first and second inaugurations drew memorable protests, he said, with demonstrators at the second inauguration angry about the Vietnam War. More recently, during President George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration, demonstrators along the parade route turned their backs as the president passed by and others held signs like “Hail to the thief,” suggesting Bush had stolen the election from Democrat Al Gore. At least one egg thrown from the crowd hit the presidential limousine. In 2005, demonstrators disrupted Bush’s inaugural address.
Bendat said that it’s to be expected that after such a contentious election cycle, demonstrators will come to Washington to express their opinions.
“That’s part of democracy, too,” he said.