Jason Ajiake, News Editor and Sabrina Newton, Contributing Writer
Posted 9:12 PM EST, Sun., Jan. 29, 2017
Protests shook downtown Washington, D.C. as Donald J Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, Friday, Jan. 20, with thousands gathering in solidarity in protest of his policies, ideals and proposals for the forthcoming presidential term.
Established organizations such as Black Lives Matter and the ANSWER Coalition, as well as start-up organizing projects such as Disrupt J20 and Refuse Fascism, began preparing for the inauguration last November, shortly after it was announced that Donald Trump would become America’s next president.
On Inauguration Day, BLM demonstrators gathered around one of the entrances of the presidential inauguration, eventually forcing Secret Service to officially shut it down, thereby limiting Trump supporters from entering the event.
“What we’re seeing is people actively voicing their dissent in light of a horrible truth—that is, Donald Trump,” said Janaya Khan, an activist from Toronto. “He is an illegitimate president, and we do not respect him as such.
Many protesters chained themselves together to symbolize their solidarity and persistence. Despite the barricade, some Trump supporters tried to enter anyway.
“We have several femme-identified people who have chained their bodies on one of these entry points, and they’re seated on the ground, and so they’re extremely vulnerable,” Khan said. “What we saw was a mass of Trump supporters try to push through, trample on them, and in doing so, possibly cause injury to themselves, so hell-bent on mobilizing around trampling black bodies.”
The D.C. Counter-Inaugural Welcoming Committee of Disrupt J20 organized a march called the “Festival of Resistance,” which featured marching bands, drummers, puppets, and vibrant displays of art and culture, and was designed to “show the diversity and power of resistance to Trump’s agenda” and to “resist despair and fear with hope and resistance,” according to its organizers. Approximately 3,000 people were in attendance.
Perhaps the most broadcasted demonstration though was that of the “black bloc,” an assembly of anti-fascist anarchists wearing black from head-to-toe, many of whom were affiliated with Disrupt J20. As the group took to the streets, participants began to destroy symbols of wealth and exploitation, including the front windows of a Starbucks, Bank of America, McDonald’s, and a limousine.
The response from law enforcement to the destruction of windows was both brute and excessive. Police officers contained the area, making it difficult for anyone to leave if necessary, and the used military-grade equipment such as flash bang grenades and tear gas, classified as a chemical warfare agent under the Geneva Convention and banned throughout international war. The aerosol substance agitates the mucous membrane within the eyes, nose, lungs and mouth making it difficult for people to breathe.
Police officers and the National Guard — fully equipped with riot gear and gas masks — began making mass arrests, forcing around 200 people into a kettle. The demonstrators were trapped and unable to leave for hours, while officers processed and arrested them one-by-one, who were later charged with rioting and may be facing up to 10 years in prison.
The Disrupt J20 legal defense team has since sued the police department for excessive use of force, and protester arraignments are currently pending.
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