WASHINGTON: Black-clad activists angry about US President Donald Trump’s inauguration smashed store and car windows in Washington on Friday and fought with police in riot gear who responded with pepper spray and stun grenades.
About 500 people, some wearing masks, marched through the city’s downtown, using hammers to claw up chunks of pavement to smash the windows of a Bank of America branch and a McDonald’s outlet, all symbols of the American capitalist system.
The crowd chanted anti-Trump slogans and carried signs with slogans including ‘Make Racists Afraid Again’, a play on the New York businessman-turned-politician’s ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan. The incident occurred about 90 minutes before Trump was sworn in at the Capitol 2.4 kms away.
A group of about 50 people were detained by police, and the Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that numerous people had been arrested and charged with rioting. Two police officers sustained minor injuries from people who were trying to avoid arrest, they said.
“The message I want to send is that Trump does not represent this country. He represents the corporate interests,” said Jessica Reznicek, a 35-year-old Roman Catholic aid worker from Des Moines, Iowa, who was part of the protest but did not participate in the violence.
Not far from the White House, protesters scuffled with police, at one point throwing aluminum chairs at an outdoor café.
Bob Hrifko, a member of the ‘Bikers for Trump’ group in town to celebrate the inauguration, was struck in the face when he tried to intervene. “I know, law and order and all that. We need more order. This ain’t right,” said Hrifko, who was bleeding from a cut under his eye.
Earlier, liberal activists with a group called Disrupt J20 intermittently blocked multiple security checkpoints leading to the largest public viewing area for the inauguration. Several were led away by police.
The number of people who turned out to view the midday swearing-in, on a gray day threatened by rain, appeared to be significantly smaller than the estimated 2 million who turned out for now-former President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Overhead video of the National Mall showed sections of the white matting laid down to protect the grass were largely empty.
The 45th US president assumed office with much to do to bolster his image – an ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found only 40% of Americans viewed him favourably, the lowest rating for an incoming president since Democrat Carter in 1977.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2017.
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