Inauguration protests: more than 200 demonstrators arrested in Washington

Thousands took to the streets of Washington DC for peaceful protests, but pockets of violence saw clashes between police and the presidents dissenters

More than 200 protesters were arrested on Friday as police used pepper spray and stun grenades to suppress a series of small, violent confrontations 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 Trumps divisive presidential campaign produced.

Shortly after Trump was sworn in, violent protests broke out in the downtown area close to the north lawn of the White House and just blocks from the pathway of the inaugural parade. A few dozen protesters, 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 quickly surrounded by police in riot gear who used sting-ball grenades and pepper spray, police said, after a black limousine was set on fire.

Lauren Gambino (@LGamGam)

Someone has lit a limo on fire and tagged we the people pic.twitter.com/CyvsGzEfie

January 20, 2017

Before the swearing-in ceremony took place activists from the anarchist group known as the black bloc smashed storefront windows and cars as they clashed with police. Officers in riot gear had again responded with pepper spray and sting-ball grenades, according to police, as the breakaway protesters were overwhelmed with force less than two miles from the US Capitol.

The group of about 200 people, many wearing black hoodies and masks, were eventually contained in a police cordon as they chanted: This is what a police state looks like and Youre protecting fascists. But live-streaming from inside the cordon, known as a police kettle revealed that journalists and legal observers were also being held inside.

By Friday evening, some members of this first group, had filed a class action lawsuit against the DC metropolitan police department, claiming that they had suffered physical and emotional injury, as well as loss of liberty during the episode.

Most of the masked 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.

Its not just about no order, he said. Its about human freedom and an economy thats run by the people.

A spokesman for the DC metropolitan police said law enforcement had arrested 217 people by Friday evening while six officers suffered minor injuries including three officers suffering head traumas after being struck by projectiles. The spokesman also denied that officers had deployed teargas on protesters, despite media reports suggesting otherwise.

We expected this kind of thing from this kind of group, and theyre going to be held accountable, said Peter Newsham, the interim chief of police, on MSNBC.

At a press conference on Friday evening DC mayor Muriel Bowser acknowledged the hundreds and hundreds of protesters who had made their voices heard through nonviolent acts of protest. But added: Unfortunately a small group of people have engaged in vandalism as well as violence against our law enforcement officers.

This type of destruction and this type of violence against people in Washington DC will not be tolerated.

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 organization 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.

Many protesters 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. Some protesters were also present along the route of the parade later in the day.

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.

Lauren Gambino (@LGamGam)

Protesters at the inauguration. Their shirts spell RESIST pic.twitter.com/IrgJkmG8Rx

January 20, 2017

James Ebersole, a protester who had come to Washington from Virginia, said he had decided to come to DC in order to voice dissent, to say that this is not OK.

I think its unifying people, he said of the resistance to Trumps election, while brandishing a sign that read Misogyny is a danger to society.

Its a call to action, a wake-up call, and it unites us against this threat.

Barbara McQueeney had never attended an inauguration before, but she felt compelled to fly out from St Augustine, Florida, to protest outside the barricades lining the National Mall.

I live in an area where theres a lot of Trump supporters and Im crushed, she said. We need hope.

McQueeney, who is retired, did not engage in much shouting. She instead stood quietly at the center of a protest lifting a homemade poster with the letters USSR spelling out United States Satellite of Russia.

Everyone knows they were involved, she said of Vladimir Putins government, but everyone is just going forward like its business as usual.

As the sun began to set and the parade continued into the evening, some activists capped nearly 12 hours on the streets. Ramah Kudaimi, who organized one of the activities associated with Disrupt J20 collective, accused the president of campaigning on a platform of racism, bigotry and hate.

We are taking a stand to say that we are against this. Our actions today made that very clear, said Kudaimi, a board member of the Washington Peace Center, a grassroots organization centered on social justice.

Kudaimi oversaw a demonstration that brought together about 100 people to represent those she said had been harassed and threatened by Trump and his supporters namely Muslims, immigrants and Jewish communities. They were one of the groups who attempted to shut down an entrance checkpoint earlier in the day.

In San Francisco protesters took over the pedestrian pathways of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in an effort to form a human chain on Friday afternoon. The action, which did not blocked vehicle traffic, attracted thousands of people, who held hands as part of a peaceful demonstration. At the San Francisco headquarters of Uber, activists shut down the office building, leading to roughly 16 arrests. The tech companys CEO recently joined Trumps Strategic and Policy Forum.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/20/inauguration-protesters-police-washington-dc