Dozens arrested on inauguration day as protests erupt in Washington

Hundreds of thousands expected in Washington for women’s march on Saturday

 

Dozens of protesters were arrested on Friday as police used pepper spray and stun grenades to suppress a series of small, violent confrontations both before and after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Thousands of protesters from numerous groups descended on Washington DC for mostly peaceful protest throughout inauguration day, in a sign of the dissent and discord Trump’s divisive presidential campaign produced.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Washington for a women’s march that is scheduled for Saturday, with similar events organized in cities around the country.

On Friday, a large group of activists from the anarchist group known as the black bloc smashed storefront windows and cars as they clashed with police shortly before the swearing-in ceremony was due to begin. Officers in riot gear responded with pepper spray and stun grenades as the breakaway protesters were overwhelmed with force less than two miles from the US Capitol.

The group of around 200 people, many wearing black hoodies and masks, were eventually contained by officers as they chanted: “This is what a police state looks like” and “You’re protecting fascists.” Eyewitnesses reported only a handful of arrests.

Most of the protesters declined to be interviewed or named, but one man who refused to give his name said their purpose was to reject “a system of economic exploitation called capitalism”.

“It’s not just about no order,” he said. “It’s about human freedom and an economy that’s run by the people.”

Shortly after Mr Trump was sworn in, violent protests broke out again in the downtown area close to the north lawn of the White House. A few dozen protesters, again clad in black, threw projectiles at police and barricaded the road with newspaper kiosks and bins, which they later set fire to. The group were again quickly surrounded by police in riot gear who used pepper spray.

Checkpoints

A spokesman for the DC metropolitan police said law enforcement arrested more than 95 people while two officers suffered minor injuries. “We expected this kind of thing from this kind of group, and they’re going to be held accountable,” said Peter Newsham, the interim chief of policesaid.

Another group of activists had attempted earlier to shut down a number of the security points allowing access to the public viewing area of the inauguration on the National Mall on Friday morning.

The small groups at these checkpoints, organised by a group named Disrupt J20, linked arms as some members were led away by police wearing body armor. The organisation claimed on social media that they had temporarily shut down a number of the dozen checkpoints around the Mall, with a group of Black Lives Matter protesters reportedly closing access at one location for over an hour .

Hundreds of protesters appeared to have gained access to the public viewing areas on the Mall, many chanting “not my president” and holding signs with slogans including “Can we impeach him today?” and “ Fascist ”.

As the chief justice, John Roberts, rose to administer the oath of office for the incoming president, six protesters, seated on the lawn just in front of the steps to the Capitol, tore off their coats, jumped on to their chairs and began chanting.

“A nation united can never be divided,” they said. Together the letters on their shirts spelled: “Resist!”

Around them, supporters shouted and called for them to leave. A man shook their chairs until one of the protesters fell. Eventually, security arrived and they were removed from the event.

Secret service

The focal point for many was likely to be an organised rally being held at the US Navy Memorial, which is situated along the inaugural parade route. Dozens of speakers from activist groups around the country were addressing a crowd of a few hundred people on Friday morning, as some complained that “thousands more” were waiting to get into the rally but had been prevented from entering by the secret service.

On Thursday night police used pepper spray to disperse protesters as chaos erupted outside an event, named the DeploraBall, attended by a number of figures associated with the so-called “alt-right”, a far-right movement that endorsed Trump during the campaign.

“Nazi scum!” a masked man yelled through a police barricade at a woman in a sequined gown as she defiantly waved her ticket for the event. A woman held a sign that read “Look, Ma. It’s a racist misogynist” with an arrow pointed toward the guest line. In response a man flipped open his suit jacket to show her his shirt, which read: “Deplorable lives matter.”

Guardian service