By: Brandon Choghri, Alanna Fairey, Anna O’Brien
Editor’s note: Choghri, Fairey and O’Brien are three of four Humber Journalism students who travelled to Washington, D.C. last week to cover the Presidential Inauguration and following day’s Women’s March, stopping en route in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Jan. 20, after running one of the most controversial campaigns in American history. The next day, data collected by Erica Chenoweth from University of Denver and Jeremy Pressman from University of Connecticut, estimated three million people across the United States attended various Women’s Marches in protest of Trump and his proposed policies.
Despite this polarization, the election wasn’t simply black and white, as we learned first-hand from American voters of all parties. There was an uproar across the country when Donald Trump said he would not accept the results of the election if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won, but it was the nation’s Left that marched the streets to exercise their first amendment rights over the weekend.
Our first stop was in Altoona, PA, a once prosperous railway town in America’s rust belt, which has historically been dominated by Republican candidates. Out of 23,000 eligible voters in Altoona, about an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh, over 20,000 voted for Trump.
The media was quick to highlight issues of racism, sexism and misogyny in Trump’s campaign, but the people of Altoona concerned themselves with economic growth and opportunity. These weren’t necessarily people filled with hate, but hard working Americans who felt left behind by governments of the past.
In the heart of Washington D.C., only one name could be heard, chanted over and over again: TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! The closer we got to the National Press Building, we discovered that this was not the only thing being chanted.
Angry protesters began chanting “get these fascists out of here” and “f–k these Nazis”, booing at apparent Trump supporters. Many of these supporters got into altercations, both verbal and physical.
The smells were as strong as the words. The air was full of marijuana, and burning flags with Trump’s face and famous logo becoming ash blowing in the breeze.
It seemed like every cop in Washington was patrolling the streets on the eve of the inauguration. Whether officers were standing in front of the National Press Building, driving in cop cars, riding bikes or helicopters, their presence could not be ignored.
On the day of the inauguration, that presence increased. Police forces, Transportation Security Administration, Secret Service, FBI and the US Army worked together to secure the inauguration grounds.
Protesters who had been stationed at the corner of K street and 13th street for several hours described a man with blood streaming down his face after he was hit with shrapnel from a concussion grenade.
The riot police were outfitted with shields and batons, and attempted to subdue the crowds. What started out as pepper spray and flash bangs quickly turned to tear gas and rubber bullets. Some protesters became more aggressive by smashing windows and eventually lighting a limo on fire.
Amongst the chaos at Franklin Square, a Trump supporter pushed and shoved wildly with several protesters in the middle of the street. He let out a yelp as protesters hurled insults at him, and he retreated off the street through the crowd. While trying to get his Make America Great Again hat back from protesters, he had been pepper sprayed by another civilian.
“I had to grab it from a couple people, and some people tried to push me off of them,” a man, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
He held out his glasses, covered in orange, a mix of pepper spray and tears streamed down his face.
“I don’t know what this stuff is, this has never happened to me before, but I wasn’t gonna let them take my hat,” the Trump supporter said.
He seemed defiant, never defeated, much like the Trump movement that swept across America. Hard working, determined people with too much momentum to be stopped. They knew from the beginning they would win, no matter how many hits they took in the process.