BY MIROSLAV TOMOSKI
On the morning of Inauguration Day there was a solemn air of silence as the city prepared for something it had equally anticipated and loathed for months. Donald J. Trump was to be sworn in as the 45th President at noon and as everyone from InfoWars’ Alex Jones to immigrant protesters took to the rainy streets, Washington became a whirling mass of every strange personality that had haunted the 2016 campaign. Hours before the day’s main event would begin, we approached Dupont Circle in the north-west end of the city where we could smell a protest.
Keeping a safe distance from the heavily guarded parade route along Pennsylvania Ave. protesters lined up along the sidewalk on Massachusetts Ave. and around to 21st for three blocks to receive two free joints and a chance to march across town to Capitol Hill. The protest was organized by local cannabis advocacy group DCMJ which planned to hand out 4,200 joints to attendees. While recreational marijuana is legal in the District of Columbia, the protesters were marching against the nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General for the Trump Administration. As a Senator, Sessions has had a history of opposition to legalization.
As the ceremony began the national anthem could be heard echoing through the streets and punctuated by the sound of sirens. The city beamed with a poetic symmetry along every corridor as though each brick had been laid perfectly for the occasion. From the Trump International Hotel which found itself conveniently in the center of the parade route, to the Senate Reflecting Pool which had been reduced to a puddle at a time when Senators are expected to deliberate over President Trump’s cabinet choices.
As thousands of supporters made their way through checkpoints and barricades they were greeted by a carnival of street vendors and protesters. Dirty looks and awkward encounters were the theme of the day as a sea of red ball-caps clashed with cardboard signs that claimed Russian interference with the election and denounced Trump’s crude rhetoric.
While many protesters and supporters avoided direct contact, it felt as though everyone wanted to be heard, but no one wanted to listen. At a confrontation outside of the J. Edgar Hoover building, where protesters linked arms to block the street, chants and muddled slogans were only broken by the echo of police helicopters against the city walls. While many encounters were peaceful, police arrested 230 rioters who set fires several blocks from Capitol Hill on 13th and K Street.
The tension which had hung over the city throughout the event only began to dissipate as the sun went down and surrendered the streets to the lonely marching bands which made their way past the White House pavilion and piled onto buses to close out the day. But as the streets began to clear it felt as though something was left unfinished. The weekend was far from over.
The Women’s March on Washington
On the morning after Inauguration Day small crowds of women gathered on the East end of the city and red ball-caps gave way to the pink beanies of the Women’s March. The mild and sullen atmosphere of the previous day gave every indication that the march might be just as tame. But with every step toward Capitol Hill more demonstrators came out of every alley, side street, and avenue en masse and it became clear that Inauguration Day had only been the calm before the storm.
Pouring over the hills around Congress, Independence Ave. became a slow moving river of picket signs as thousands of women, children, and men engulfed the city. Where chants gave way to the sound of sirens the day before, the voices of the Women’s March could be heard across the city and only grew louder as reports came in from around the world: New York, Paris, Montreal, Vancouver had all joined the march. In DC, 500,000 participants — three times more than expected — swarmed into the streets in a peaceful protest which resulted in no arrests.
Marchers made their way down the parade route on Pennsylvania Ave. where Donald Trump had taken his first trip to the White House as President the day before. By midday it was impossible to navigate the city without encountering a pink beanie, and a genuine struggle to move against the tide of protesters.
Throughout the day the marchers were joined by celebrities like Michael Moore and Madonna, as well as lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren who made pleas to the crowd to continue their resistance of Trump’s policies. Swarmed by the crowd just in front of the Canadian embassy, former Secretary of State John Kerry spent his first day off the job walking his dog Ben along the marchers’ route.
The overwhelming numbers of the Women’s March eclipsed those who attended the Inauguration, prompting Trump and his Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, to spend their first day in office countering claims that attendance of Trump’s event was underwhelming when compared to Obama’s Inauguration in 2008. While an image that circulated the internet — comparing the two events side by side — was found to be misleading, the Trump Administration made the outrageously false claim that theirs was the, “largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period” capping off a bizarre weekend and setting the tone for the next four years.