Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Donald Trump's inauguration: Protesters pitching diverse causes but united against incoming president

Protesters pitching diverse causes but united against the incoming president demonstrated in the early hours of Inauguration Day, intent on making their mark as Donald Trump prepared to take office.

Bearing signs reading "Let freedom ring" and "Free Palestine", dozens lined up across a security checkpoint near the Capitol, some wearing orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their faces to represent prisoners in US detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Eleanor Goldfield, who helped organise the Disrupt J20 protest, said protesters wanted to show Mr Trump and his "misguided, misinformed or just plain dangerous" supporters that they will not be silent.

Hundreds of thousands of people are in Washington to witness the inauguration, and some protesters plan to do their best to derail the celebrations.

Late on Thursday evening, protesters and supporters of Mr Trump clashed outside a pro-Trump event in the capital. Police used chemical spray on some protesters in an effort to control the unruly crowd.

Hundreds gathered outside the National Press Club in central Washington, where the "DeploraBall" was being held. The name is a play on a campaign remark by Hillary Clinton, who once referred to many of Mr Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables".

In New York, actors Robert De Niro, Sally Field and Mark Ruffalo joined hundreds of other people outside a Trump building on Thursday for a pre-inauguration demonstration.

More demonstrations are under way. The DisruptJ20 coalition, named after the date of the inauguration, said people participating in its actions in Washington would attempt to shut down or cause delays at security checkpoints going into the inauguration ceremony. They intend to block checkpoints and in some cases risk arrest.

"Our goals are to have to have massive protests and to shut down the inauguration if at all possible, and if not possible - if we can't shut the inauguration down - then make it as difficult as possible for Trump to act as if he has a mandate," organiser David Thurston told reporters last week.

Read more

'Historic day'

Spectators were queueing from the early hours to pass through security checkpoints to take their places to see Mr Trump sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

He will deliver a speech to hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the city, while millions more watch around the globe.

Thousands of protesters are also expected and a huge security operation is under way. Protesters clashed with police at a pro-Trump rally in the US capital on Thursday night.

The president-elect swept into the city on a military jet on Thursday as he kicked off three days of inaugural festivities.

He saluted the US Air Force officer who welcomed him as he stepped off the jet with wife Melania at Joint Base Andrews, just outside Washington.

His first stop was a luncheon in a ballroom at his own hotel, where he gave a mention to Republican congressional leaders, declaring: "I just want to let the world know we're doing very well together."

Vice president-elect Mike Pence, in a tweet, called Inauguration Eve "a momentous day before a historic day".

"We are all ready to go to work," Mr Pence said at a news conference. "In fact, we can't wait to get to work for the American people to make it great again."

Outgoing Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson said he would be putting on his "favourite DHS jacket" and taking to the streets to inspect security preparations for the inaugural festivities.

He said areas where crowds will congregate will be "extra fortified this year with dump trucks, heavily armoured vehicles to prevent anybody who's not authorised from being in the area from driving something in there".

He said there was "no specific credible threat" related to the inauguration.

Mr Trump's public schedule for the celebration started with an afternoon wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery, followed by a welcome concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial ending with fireworks.

The two-hour concert, open to the public, featured country star Toby Keith, soul's Sam Moore, actor Jon Voight and The Piano Guys.

Jennifer Holliday, originally announced as one of the headliners, backed out after an outcry from Trump critics.

Party time in Moscow?

Russian officials and legislators have hailed Donald Trump's inauguration, while revellers in Moscow and elsewhere gathered for celebrations as bar and club owners sought to cash in on public excitement.

Mr Trump's promises to fix ravaged relations with Moscow have elated Russia's political elite amid spiralling tensions with Washington over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the US election.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said that while Mr Trump's policy towards Russia is unclear, "we are hoping that reason will prevail".

"We are ready to do our share of the work in order to improve the relationship," he said on Facebook.

Mr Trump's praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised expectations that he could move to normalise ties, even though he has not articulated a clear Russia policy and some of his cabinet nominees have made hawkish statements on Moscow.

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, predicted that Russia will have a pragmatic but tough partner in Mr Trump.

"Russia's potential is incomparable to that of the United States," he said, adding that Moscow will have to apply a lot of skills "to play from the position of weakness and not lose".

Despite the uncertainty, many Russians looked at Mr Trump's presidency with high hopes, and some nightclubs and bars called parties to celebrate the inauguration.

At one Moscow nightclub, several dozen people began toasting Mr Trump late on Thursday.

Willi Tokarev, 82, a singer who emigrated to the US in the mid-1970s and later became a major music star in Russia, topped the entertainment bill with his song Trumplissimo America!

"Trump, Trump - symbol of America. Trump, Trump, he's really president," the mustachioed Tokarev sang on a tiny stage with Russian and American flags hanging behind him.

Across from the US embassy compound in central Moscow, the Russian Army store put up a poster with Mr Trump's picture, offering inauguration day discounts of 10% for Americans.

There is a broad feeling in Russia's political and business elites that relations with Washington cannot get any worse.

"Russia hopes that under Trump there will be no ideology, no attempts to lecture about democracy, human rights and rights of smaller nations around its borders ... but primarily deal with economic issues in a businesslike way and even tacitly divide spheres of influence," said Alexei Arbatov, a senior researcher with the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, a government-funded Moscow think tank.

"Putin and (Barack) Obama spoke different languages, they didn't understand one another. There is a hope that Trump and Putin will speak the same language, even though their positions may differ."

Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said: "Constructive approach and pragmatism have practically disappeared from the Russia-US agenda during Obama's presidency."

Mr Medvedev, who served as president in 2008-12 when Mr Putin had to shift into the premier's seat due to term limits, presided over a period of warmer ties during Mr Obama's first term. He sharply criticised the outgoing administration for ruining relations with Moscow by attempting to treat Russia like a "banana republic" and relying on "brute force and sheer pressure" in its dealings with Moscow.

"Conclusion: The Obama administration has destroyed relations between the United States and Russia, which are at their lowest point in decades," Mr Medvedev said.

He denounced the sanctions the US and its allies imposed on Russia over its action in Ukraine, saying they "have reduced our co-operation to zero".

"It doesn't get any dumber than restricting entry to the United States for the leadership of the Russian parliament, ministers, and businessmen, thus deliberately reducing the possibility of full-fledged contacts and closing the window to co-operation," he said.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph