WASHINGTON – Thousands of Americans took to the streets of the capital on Inauguration Day, with tensions running high between supporters of President Donald Trump and demonstrators.
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A number of large anti-Trump rallies took place simultaneously in different parts of the city, as thousands of the new president’s fans were standing for hours to secure a seat at the ceremony. The inevitable result was a string of confrontations between the two sides, with the local police intervening and arresting dozens of people.
One particularly tense scene was at the corner of 7th & D streets in northwest Washington, where close to 1,000 protesters marched against Trump. They held signs attacking the incoming president on a wide range of issues, from his connections to Russia to his immigration policies.
Many signs referred to the allegations of sexual assault made against Trump by more than a dozen women. The protesters yelled “Not my president,” “Pussy grabs back” and “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.”
The line of protesters spread out across three blocks. A number of men dressed as Russian soldiers marched alongside the demonstration, draped in Russian flags and singing slogans about Trump and Putin.
In the surrounding streets, pro-Trump supporters – wearing his "Make America Great Again" merchandise – walked by. Most ignored the protesters, but on occasion verbal confrontations broke out.
“You're murdering democracy,” one woman sporting a red “MAGA” hat shouted at the crowd. A married couple who were Trump supporters told Haaretz they couldn’t agree if the protests were legitimate or not.
Preston Kerry, a Virginia native who came to Washington to “show my support for my president,” said the protesters were “fools” for not “at least giving the man a chance before they do all this noise.” However, he insisted it was “not against the law” for them to demonstrate, and said Trump himself probably feels the same.
But his wife, Martha, thought otherwise. “This should not be happening,” she said. “They need to respect the results of the election.”
Not everyone present had chosen sides. Ethan, a farmer from Pennsylvania, came to the demonstration with his llama and two alpacas, to protest trade agreements that he said hurt U.S. farmers. He refused to say whom he voted for in the election, but called on Trump to fight against “greedy corporations” and “stand by his word to cancel the TPP,” referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – an international trade deal initiated by the Obama administration and 12 Pacific Rim countries.
“These animals have protested in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, everywhere,” Ethan explained to curious passersby, some of them protesters and others pro-Trump supporters who stopped to take pictures of the llama and alpacas.
“We've been to both the RNC and DNC conventions together,” he informed those who asked to pet the animals, adding, “I hope Trump sees videos from today and invites us to the White House to talk about ways to get corporations out of our government.”
A far more chaotic scene evolved north of there, near the corner of 12th and K streets, where protesters began throwing rocks and bottles at the local police.
Two police officers were injured and close to 100 protesters were arrested in different parts of the city.
The police issued a statement accusing some of the protesters of “acting in a concerted effort, engaged in acts of vandalism and several instances of destruction of property.”
The behavior was denounced by many opponents and critics of Trump on social media, who accused the rioters – some of them caught on film – of hurting the message of the demonstrations.
The police also said "pepper spray and other control devices were used to control the criminal actors and protect persons and property."
At the 7th street demonstration, the highlight occurred at around noon, right before Trump took the oath of office and became the 45th American president.
Many protesters watched the event on their cellphones and burst in laughter upon discovering that, as Trump stepped forward to take the oath, rain began pouring down on the National Mall. To many, this shower was a humorous reminder of the scandal from two weeks ago surrounding the intelligence dossier supposedly documenting Trump’s stay at a hotel in Russia.
Yet despite that lighthearted moment, the atmosphere in the early afternoon as the protesters dispersed was as gloomy as the skies.
“We’re at a time of national crisis and I'm afraid for the future of this country,” said Jack Collin, a student from Maryland. He attended the protests because “Trump is the most dangerous person to ever become president.”
Like many of the protesters who conquered Washington's streets on Friday, he also intends to participate in Saturday’s "March on Washington," which is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people, starting 10 A.M. local time (5 P.M. in Israel).