Washington DC Jan. 20(Photo Jan. 21)
The 58th Inauguration weekend was eventful for several reasons. I decided to show up and observe the weekend festivities with some friends. Truth be told and I don't believe it to be a secret, I'm no fan of Trump. The real story to me was the level of frustration, anger, fear, and confusion on both sides. As a lover of history and our country, I've always wanted to attend an inauguration. Who knew it would be for a President Trump, this feels like the twilight zone.
Part 1: January 20, The Inauguration of Donald Trump
Our Uber driver debating the merits of protest and its efficacy.
As the inauguration ended and the Trump supporters were leaving, I found them to be quite gracious and polite overall. Save for the older gentleman that said the protesters wouldn't hold up to an M16, that was jarring. Most of them content to keep to themselves, even though they outnumbered protesters early on. There were a handful of occasions where tempers flared and the two sides started to shout before they were broken up. One of the best things I heard all weekend came from a Trump supporter. He was correcting and calming down another Trump supporter that was screaming at a younger lady that looked like she could be an immigrant, for her sign, about being an immigrant. He said and I'm paraphrasing, what does that accomplish? That's not how we win by getting in their faces. I already knew there were a number of Trump supporters that are much better people than they get credit for, but it's nice to be reminded in person.
This protest literally just came around the corner in a case of right place, right time.
As the day wore on, I was taking pictures of Trump supporters and protesters together, it was beautiful! I truly felt proud of my fellow countrymen and women. People were even smiling and laughing for a little bit. In all, I walked more than 7 miles the day of the inauguration along the parade route and accidentally, at first, with a protest for several miles. We just kept exploring and that led us to a rally with Michael Moore. My goal the whole time being, follow the action, follow the energy, and just take it all in.
Speaking on Trump supporters, they seem to want people to accept the results of the election. They can't or don't want to see the parallels between the tea party and this movement. These are pendulum swings in opposite directions and I sincerely believe this Trump election could be a wonderful thing for democracy at the moment. People are engaged on both sides more than they have been in quite a while. That is a great thing.
However (cue the dramatic music), not long after that and shortly after we left the rally with Michael Moore, we saw the Washington post building about a block and a half away. I wanted to see it up close, that would be the turning point in the day. As people that aren't as familiar with the city, we walked right into the aftermath of an earlier confrontation between protesters and police. We saw the riot gear and I personally thought it was just a precaution, not yet realizing what already happened. Then, we saw several garbage cans on fire in the middle of the street. It was truly bizarre to see that in an American city street right in front of my own eyes. After that, we notice a few vehicles that had the windows smashed out and were vandalized with spray paint and just beaten up. One "protester" egged on by the crowd, ripped off a windshield wiper and started to try and break the windshield with it. That of course, after he unsuccessfully dropped a few elbows on it WWE style, I mean Linda McMahon is part of the incoming administration, so it's only fitting.
A short while later, Trump supporters were walking through that area, McPherson Square, where a scheduled protest with a permit was taking place. Some of them were egging on protesters and some protesters were egging them on. The scene had the potential to get ugly, but as cooler heads prevailed on that front, over by the vandalized vehicles more mischief would soon be afoot. Ultimately a young man/teenager in a mask took a "Make America Great Again" hat from a Trump supporter and burned it in one of the garbage can fires. A TON of people were yelling to stop and saying that wasn't right. To be clear, that behavior is abhorrent and completely uncalled for.
The whole while, the police are on the end of the same block just observing as multiple garbage cans burn with their contents inside. Then, a heavy cloud of smoke came from the vandalized cars. Somebody lit a car on fire and smoke was billowing in the streets. As we hear flashbangs going off and see streams of pepper spray or mace being shot into the whole crowd, we ran like any normal person would. After it was clear it wasn't an explosion or anything more serious, which happened very quickly, we headed back that way to see the aftermath. Police had the area mostly blocked off, but I was able to get close enough for some decent pictures. The scene was fucking surreal!! Sorry for the F-Bomb, but the emphasis is very necessary.
After that craziness, things settled down for the most part, other than water bottles being thrown by some protesters and some more flashbangs from the police every so often. The fact that we'd already walked 7ish miles all over the city, we were ready to eat something and head back to home base in MD for the night, with our lovely host and my partner in crime that decided to steer clear of the festivities inauguration day.
As the day played in my mind over and over again, I was hopeful. Our country is still standing for the time being even though we are fiercely divided. The fact that the overwhelming majority of protesters and Trump Supporters were respectful of one another was highly encouraging. We are all just people trying to do what's right, not all Trump Supporters are bad people. But, not all protesters are there for a peaceful gathering to convey their discomfort with the incoming administration.
We met back up with Kim and Eileen, ate a wonderful dinner created by Eileen, and unwound and prepared for a long day ahead.
My overall takeaways from Inauguration Day were the incredible scale of the everything that goes into hosting a crowd that large, the overall mood, and it didn't seem like a celebration. The civility of people on both sides was personally motivating, it gave me hope with my family and friends. Also the sheer, willful ignorance of others, on both sides continue to hurt the overall conversation. One thing is for certain though, January 20th, 2017 will be a day for the ages.
Part Two: January 21, The Women's March on Washington
Day two of the weekend started much, much, much earlier than day one. Waking up well before 5a.m. is never easy for me, especially after all the energy expended on Inauguration Day. But this day felt different, a renewed hope. With coffee and biscotti, how could this day go wrong? As we packed all our things for the day ahead, laughter filled the apartment. We knew how serious the day would be, but it was just nice to have a normal sleepy morning with a bunch of other grumpy, under-caffeniated, "lib-tards and snowflakes". How do I tell if I'm a lib-tard or a snowflake? I'll file that under questions for later.
The mood shifted as we waited for our Uber, it was clear everybody felt some tension and anxiety after we saw what unfolded Inauguration Day. Tired and hungry we were on to the metro station, seeing so many other people that early all there for the same cause was uplifting and energizing. As we gained riders at each stop and the train car filled, it became more and more apparent that this was going to be YUGE!!! Keep in mind this was shortly after 5a.m. and not a workday for most.
Once we arrived at L'Enfant Plaza, the crowd had grown even larger and people were starting to make their way to the streets. There was a feeling in the air of community and humanity, even as we saw several Hummers and witnessed safety precautions being put in place. We were among the first attendees to arrive, still before the sunrise.
I will always take a free hug!
Anyone know who these people were and why they were walking through the march in the wrong direction? And what is the long twisty stick?
The Bikers for Trump Rally was pathetic, more than half the people photographed are protesters mocking them by riding a fake motorcycle and making noises. While hilarious and a wonderful homage to SouthPark in my mind, it seemed unnecessary. The Trump Bikers lost that day, no need to rub it in. Of course, the bikers didn't like this challenge to their manhood and got in the faces of the protesters. Luckily, they were separated and nothing else happened.
We came across Trump's newest hotel and the march as a collective had a very specific message for Mr. Trump himself.
The Trump Hotel in DC is where a lot of the "garbage" signs were left. Not to leave trash behind, but to send a message. Police Officers were reported to have been helping protesters put their signs down properly. This should let you know that the intention was good and the officers on site saw that.
Anytime a crowd of people this large assembles, there will always be fear of a terrorist attack. That fear went away very quickly when surrounded by the people attending and the security they had in place. The police and any other security forces were wonderful both days and I felt safe. Mothers and grandmothers tend to have that effect on people.
The two events, the inauguration and the women's march, had very different turnouts from a first person perspective, no media bias here. The March had what felt like at least three times more people. It was not difficult to move, it was impossible at points and made you feel claustrophobic at others. The inauguration had a very different feel to it, it was morose. If I didn't know the election outcome, I'd have thought the women's marchers were victorious in November, but alas, this was not the case. Any attempts to say otherwise are strictly "alternative facts".
Justin is the Founder and Editor at Large for Rooted, A Gentlemen's Blog. He grew up in Illinois as a military brat but has made Raleigh his home for the last decade. These experiences influence his views expressed on The Gentlemen's Blog. He enjoys sports, politics, music, entertainment, and humor. For Justin, nothing is off limits. He loves to spend his free time with his wife and his pup, Bruce.