Confrontation Near Parade Route Escalates, Pepper Spray Used

By JESSICA GRESKO, MICHAEL BIESECKER and JEFF HORWITZ, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Protesters registered their rage against the new president Friday in a chaotic confrontation with police who used pepper spray and stun grenades in a melee just blocks from Donald Trump’s inaugural parade route. Scores were arrested for trashing property and attacking officers.

Several spirited demonstrations unfolded peacefully at various security checkpoints near the Capitol as police helped ticket-holders get through to the inaugural ceremony. Signs read, “Resist Trump Climate Justice Now,” ”Let Freedom Ring,” ”Free Palestine.”

But about a mile from the National Mall, police gave chase to a group of about 100 protesters who smashed the windows of downtown businesses including a Starbucks, a Bank of America and a McDonald’s as they denounced capitalism and Trump. Police in riot gear used pepper spray from large canisters and eventually cordoned off protesters at 12th and L streets in northwest Washington.

The confrontation began an hour before Trump took the oath of office and escalated several hours later as the crowd of protesters swelled to more than 1,000, some wearing gas masks and with arms chained together inside PVC pipe. One said the demonstrators were “bringing in the cavalry.”

When some crossed police lines, taunting, “Put the pigs in the ground,” police charged with batons and pepper spray, as well as stun grenades, which are used to shock and disperse crowds. Loud booms echoed through the streets about six blocks from where Trump would soon hold his inaugural parade.

Some protesters picked up bricks and concrete from the sidewalk and hurled them at police lines. Some rolled large, metal trash cans at police.

Police said in a statement that the group damaged vehicles, destroyed property and set small fires while armed with crowbars and hammers. Peter Newsham, the interim police chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, said the group caused “significant damage” along a number of blocks and that more than 90 people were arrested and charged with rioting.

Before Inauguration Day, the DisruptJ20 coalition, named after the date of the inauguration, had promised that people participating in its actions in Washington would attempt to shut down the celebrations, risking arrest when necessary.

Earlier in the day, as guests were going in to the ceremony, lines for ticket-holders entering two gates stretched for blocks at one point as protesters clogged entrances.

Trump supporter Brett Ecker said the protesters were frustrating but weren’t going to put a damper on his day.

“They’re just here to stir up trouble,” said the 36-year-old public school teacher. “It upsets me a little bit that people choose to do this, but yet again, it’s one of the things I love about this country.”

At one checkpoint, protesters wore orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their faces to represent prisoners in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay. Eleanor Goldfield, who helped organize the Disrupt J20 protest, said protesters wanted to show Trump and his “misguided, misinformed or just plain dangerous” supporters that they won’t be silent.

Black Lives Matter and feminist groups also made their voices heard. Outside the International Spy Museum, protesters in Russian hats ridiculed Trump’s praise of President Vladimir Putin, marching with signs calling Trump “Putin’s Puppet” and “Kremlin employee of the month.”

Demonstrations in Washington were not the only ones Friday. In San Francisco, thousands of demonstrators formed a human chain on the Golden Gate Bridge and chanted “Love Trumps hate.” In the city’s financial district, a few hundred protesters blocked traffic outside an office building partly owned by Trump.

In Atlanta, protests converged at City Hall and a few hundred people chanted and waved signs protesting Trump, denouncing racism and police brutality and expressing support for immigrants, Muslims and the Black Lives Matter movement.

And in Nashville, half a dozen protesters chained themselves to the doors of the Tennessee Capitol. Hundreds also sat in a 10-minute silent protest at a park while Trump took the oath of office. Organizers led a prayer, sang patriotic songs and read the Declaration of Independence aloud.

Friday’s protests weren’t the first of the inauguration. On Thursday night, protesters and Trump supporters clashed outside a pro-Trump event in Washington. Police used chemical spray on some protesters in an effort to control the unruly crowd.

The demonstrations won’t end when Trump takes up residence in the White House. A massive Women’s March on Washington is planned for Saturday. Christopher Geldart, the District of Columbia’s homeland security director, has said 1,800 buses have registered to park in the city Saturday, which could mean nearly 100,000 people coming in just by bus.

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Associated Press writers contributing to this report were: Alan Suderman, Matthew Barakat, Alanna Durkin Richer and Luis Alonso Lugo in Washington; Kate Brumback in Atlanta, Jonathan Mattise and Erik Schelzig in Nashville and Janie Har and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco.

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Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jessicagresko

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