Washington D.C. has been a city of turmoil over the last few days. On Thursday, masses of army trucks, secret service personnel, and police cars flocked to the city in preparation for the election of President Donald Trump. Trucks lined the streets, forming a secure barrier around the Capitol’s vicinity. Security checkpoints appeared on every street. Thousands of official personnel clad with guns instilled a sense of fear and intimidation, reminding us of the power of the American forces. It felt as if the Apocalypse was coming.
On Thursday evening, the Lincoln Memorial hosted the Inauguration concert, with a collection of acts performing in front of President Trump. In typical American style, patriotism was at the core of the concert. Lee Greenwood performed the 1984 classic, “God Bless the U.S.A.”: and it really did look like the U.S.A. needed God’s blessing. The Piano Guys performed “It’s gonna be, gonna be, O.K.”, which seemed like an anticipatory joke about the events that would take place the following day. Then came Toby Keith with the classic “Courtesy of Red, White and Blue”. His lyrics, claiming the U.S.A. as ‘the land of the free’, now look like an obscene joke after the White House’s decision to remove the LGBT section from its website. The whole event seemed like some comical display of America’s most mediocre and mono-ethical talent.
Friday was the big day. The city ground to a morbid and solemn halt as Trump supporters arrived in the nation’s capital to celebrate Inauguration. D.C., as a strong Democrat state, was forced to host the Inauguration of one of the most controversial and extreme Republicans in recent history. Naturally, protests spread across the city as the Inauguration ceremony saw a remarkable drop in attendees from Obama’s in 2009, despite the claims made by the White House press secretary. Protesters blocked security checkpoints in an attempt to restrict the number of attendees. After the completion of Trump’s thirty-five-word oath at midday, one spectator’s comment, ‘I can’t believe this is actually happening’, perfectly summarised the sentiment of D.C.’s crowds: shock, fear, and anxiety regarding what Trump’s presidency might bring.
Although most protests were peaceful, providing a sense of solidarity for anti-Trump demonstrators, some protests became violent. Businesses in downtown D.C. were attacked, newspaper stands and a limousine were set on fire, and the police retaliated with pepper spray, smoke, and flash-bag devices. Two hundred and seventeen people were arrested. The sound of sirens replaced the cheering that should have marked such a historical day. D.C. was against Trump – and they wanted the world to know.
The Women’s March on D.C. marked a drastic change in tone. More than a million protestors turned up in D.C.’s streets as a counter-inauguration. The protest was so large that it became impossible to orchestrate an organised march. Instead, floods of pink ‘pussy hats’ lined the streets, outnumbering the previous day’s attendees. Crowds chanted phrases such as ‘Not my President’, ‘When the Donald attacks, the pussy fights back’, and ‘Welcome to your first day, we will not go away.’ It was remarkable. The previous day’s remorse had been replaced by a celebratory retaliation. Speakers such as Gloria Steinem, Madonna, Scarlett Johansson, and Alicia Keys all appeared in solidarity with the cause.
Being in D.C. for Trump’s inauguration was a remarkable experience. It was an event which will go down in history. Friday was the swearing in of an individual who poses a serious threat to women, the environment, ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and international harmony. Yet, Saturday saw the largest protest in U.S. history. It represented the power of the people to make a change – the hope of solidarity in the face of the tyranny of Trump.
Image: Elvert Barnes