As President Donald Trump took his oath of office at noon on Friday, protesters could be heard outside the gates surrounding the National Mall, where they had been chanting against the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States all morning.
As Trump told the nation they were now "joined in a great national effort to rebuild [the] country and restore its promise for all its people," the protestors seemed to be the physical embodiment of how difficult that may prove to be, as they pressed behind the faithful waiting to "Make America Great Again" and taunted them with signs that said, "Putin's Puppet," and "Illegitimate." The weather was misty and damp in Washington, D.C., but the emotions were simmering. They would boil over around 3 p.m.
President Trump spoke a very short 16 minutes, and his speech was punctuated by nods to his platform of "America First" and desire to give back the power of self-governance to the American people. January 20th, 2017, he said, will be remembered as the day "the people became rulers of this nation again."
But looking past the security checkpoints down the National Mall 12 blocks and then North eight blocks to K Street (the famous home of the D.C. lobby shops), there was evidence of the form some people's rule might take. Protestors — who had been stewing and moving from street to street all day, looking for shorter lines into the security checkpoints — began to act, breaking windows in store fronts, burning trashcans and bonfires, sucker punching Trump supporters, smashing press crew equipment vans and even setting a limousine on fire. Their grievances were ostensibly that Trump was illegitimate because he lost the popular vote, that he was a stooge of Russian President Vladimir Putin and that he was just a bad man.
One protestor, 25-year-old Rachel Bowdin who came to join the Women's March planned for Saturday, said, as she held her stark anti-Trump sign aloft in a sea of parade supporters, "Basically [Trump] promotes hate."
Protesters who question the legitimacy of President Donald Trump due to his loss of the popular vote stood quietly with their statement on 10th, even as their candidate Hillary Clinton stood on stage while Donald Trump was sworn in. (Image source: Sarah Lee/TheBlaze)
The bright line dividing the "Two Americas" could not have been any clearer Friday. While 15-year-old Northern Virginia resident Denise Loewinger said she liked Trump for his desire to keep the nation "safe and united" and make sure "we are not fighting with each other," five ladies wearing pink "pussy hats," who planned to march in Saturday's Women's March, wore their displeasure — quite literally — on their heads.
Jen Dragon from Woodstock, New York, like young Rachel Bowdin, was clear: Trump is a threat. Dragon, when questioned about why the Women's March was not allowing pro-life women's groups to join in Saturday's protest — something Bowdin expressed dismay over as it was "exclusionist" — said, "A woman's right to not have abortions is not being threatened."
Ladies preparing for Saturday's Women's March in DC wearing pink "pussy hats" to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump. (Image source: Sarah Lee/TheBlaze)
The differences between these two Americas are not easily overcome. Their meeting in Washington, D.C., Friday may have been the first time caricatures had come alive for both sides. As Monica Sansonetti, a Georgetown graduate who works in Washington for a prominent media company put it, "There are people who have never even been to the areas West of the East Coast. When they see people that come from the 'country' on TV or in movies, it's like they're looking at something that's not real. But those people are real. And they elected Donald Trump."
So while Trump supporters were happily celebrating inside the gated checkpoints, there were reminders all around them that the America they may never see was seething outside the gates, getting angrier and being kept from the celebration near the Capitol. All the celebrants had to do was look up at the armed men stalking the rooftops to be reminded that as Trump talked about a "new vision [governing] our land," that vision wasn't shared by all the people in attendance. And there were people risking themselves to make sure they protected the worst elements of both from each other.
Armed agents patrolling rooftops around the parade route during the swearing in of President Donald Trump Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Image source: Sarah Lee/TheBlaze)
But if Trump's election and inauguration had proved anything, it's that both sides are capable of defending themselves, as well. As Berl Gorby, one of the Bikers for Trump who came in to town for the inauguration, noted with almost a sense of relief, "We're not electing a pope, we're electing a leader of a nation." The message? Those who have felt repressed by eight years of the progressive Obama administration can finally fight back.
And the same sentiment was shared by the protestors, who pressed in against the Trump supporters waiting to get through one of the security checkpoints. Their behavior was an indication that they feel they must begin fighting back against four years of a Trump administration before things get out of hand. And so they began Friday.
Line waiting to get into the 7th Street Secret Service screening area around 9 a.m. Trump supporters in red hats at the front were pressed from behind by a chanting mob of protestors. The protests would later turn violent. (Image source: Sarah Lee/TheBlaze)
For Washington State resident 21-year-old James Allsup, a Trump supporter in town for the inauguration who was featured on the news when video of him getting sucker punched outside Thursday night's "Deploraball" leaked out, the answer is law and order.
"I was hit once in the face by a protester after another one of them stole my hat," he said. "Then, approximately 30 minutes later, as my group and I was leaving, I was struck in the back of the head with a flag pole by a white male wearing a mask. The bleeding was fairly severe and I had to go to the hospital and received five staples to mend it....I think that we need law and order. It's unacceptable that things like this can happen to people without consequence. I'm optimistic about what Trump will do- but there are some very severe divisions in this country and if violence is going to take the place of peaceful discourse, we're going to be in big trouble."
In places like China, where Gloria Zhang lived until her mid 20s before coming the U.S. to study, law and order is taken to the extreme. She has watched the appointment of power in her home country and thinks the election process here is superior. It's for this reason, she said, that she supported Trump over Hillary Clinton, even though she couldn't vote for him as she's not yet a naturalized citizen.
"Some of what he says, he doesn't really mean," she said. "But he seems to be more conscious when making decisions. I found that Hillary tried her best to use every card she could play." And Hillary's gambit was a familiar political maneuver that made Zhang uncomfortable, she said.
As of Friday night, when the two Americas — one overwhelmingly supporters of Trump, the other overwhelmingly opposed to him — met, over 200 people had been arrested in the protests-turned-riots in downtown Washington, D.C. Just under 10 police officers had sustained mild injuries. And the Trump administration had made tickets to the two public inaugural balls an affordable $50 so that some people who had a little less in life might be able to attend.
Perhaps Trump will be able to achieve his ambitious goals, one being to "unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism," as he stated in his speech. That's a goal most find worthy of getting behind. But he'll have to do some uniting of the two Americas first by convincing them their common enemy isn't each other.