Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
Skirmishes between police and protesters marked a day of dissent during the inauguration, one day before the Women’s March arrives.
UPDATED 9:30 PM EST
Light rain fell on the Capitol as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court swore in Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States. Elsewhere across the nation’s capital, police met jagged bands of protesters out to show their dissatisfaction with Trump’s presidency, sometimes by vandalizing property.
While the big crowds that appeared in 2009 for Barack Obama failed to materialize for President Trump’s inauguration, security for the event nevertheless meant that most of downtown D.C. was on lockdown. But demonstrators did gridlock one better by occupying part of I-395, the main arterial highway running from Virginia into D.C.
At the time of this writing, hundreds of protesters were still on the road.
Protestors shutting down 395 South. pic.twitter.com/UhoIM50AAZ— DC Maryland Virginia (@DMVFollowers) January 20, 2017
Marchers toured pockets of D.C.’s Northwest quadrant, some of them peaceful, others less so. On K Street NW, the main downtown business corridor, some protesters shattered storefront windows and vandalized cars. Several burned flags, threw rocks and bricks at law enforcement, and destroyed barricades.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, more than a 100 protesters had been arrested in different skirmishes around the city, primarily downtown.
At several points throughout the afternoon, police pinned hundreds of protesters into city blocks in and around the intersections of I and 12th, and K and 13th. This cornering strategy prompted some protesters to throw projectiles at police, who responded with frequent flash-bang grenades and heavy deployment of tear gas. The use of these grenades apparently led to the injury of at least one bystander, a man who was hit in the head.
Though violent incidents were few and far between for the most part, the mood was tense throughout the day. Police and National Guard personnel drove military-grade vehicles throughout the protest zones, and troops, who appeared to be snipers, remained stationed above the crowds:
At one point a police SUV appeared to be mowing its way through a crowd. A handful of protesters responded by smashing the van’s windows:
Police van tries to push through crowd.some smash its windows (vid does not contain actual smashing) pic.twitter.com/rHusZAWZN7— George Joseph (@georgejoseph94) January 20, 2017
At least one group lit a garbage fire downtown. Three officers have been injured over the day; there is not an official estimate yet for the number of protesters or any civilians injured in the clashes. Several news outlets report more than 200 arrests.
Late in the day, a limousine was set on fire on K Street.
Limo on fire pic.twitter.com/l1J5NjCyOB— Vann R. Newkirk II (@fivefifths) January 20, 2017
The mood in D.C. recalls the late 1990s and early 2000s, when professional protesters arrived for regular calendar events to disrupt the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. It’s been years since D.C. police fired tear gas at demonstrators at those or similar events. Overall, though, the inauguration protests remain civil. None of the violence as of late Friday afternoon could be characterized as a riot.
Demonstrators didn’t waste any time making their feelings about Trump’s presidency known. Pomp and circumstance for President Trump’s inauguration may be at a low point relative to other Washington parties in recent years, but protesters still took note of them—and showed up to greet Trump supporters. One group clashed with police on Thursday night outside the “DeploraBall,” a pro-Trump gala held at the National Press Club.
Meanwhile, the stark absence of people was perhaps most notable feature of the inaugural parade, with Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Benjamin Wittes tweeting that it was “the most powerful protest D.C. could have made.”
Parade route from Capital to WH. Entire stands empty. Crowd thin. pic.twitter.com/7AcpJkBO8O— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) January 20, 2017
Press freedoms are a larger story this year than in inauguration events past. Media were reportedly banned from entering the Trump International Hotel, for example—the second seat of executive authority for this administration. And on Friday, a reporter for The Intercept captured video that allegedly shows police throwing down a reporter for The Washington Post.
Washington Post reporter Dalton Bennett thrown to the ground by riot police. pic.twitter.com/4I442QhEqM— Alex Emmons (@AlexanderEmmons) January 20, 2017
Hundreds of thousands more people are expected to join in on Saturday, the day of the Women’s March on Washington, an event that will serve as the de facto protest against the incoming president. This post will be updated as events transpire.
If unofficial estimates of the crowd for President Trump’s inauguration are right, then attendance for the Women’s March may dwarf the event that women (and others) are ostensibly protesting. Planefuls of “nasty women” are currently inbound for the District.
Flight attendant on a plane from Chicago to DC: "Ladies and the two gentlemen on this flight, welcome." A passenger led chants.— Catrin Einhorn (@catrineinhorn) January 20, 2017
In most D.C. neighborhoods, though, inauguration means business as usual. All the regular bugbears that bother residents still apply.
This post has been updated with additional on-the-ground coverage from CityLab fellow George Joseph.