Protests already underway in Washington ahead of Trump's inauguration

As the nation’s capital prepares to welcome Donald Trump into the White House on Friday, protests here that may ultimately include tens of thousands of people — or more — have already begun.

Trump, who fell more than 2.8 million votes short of his opponent in the popular vote and enters the Oval Office with historically low approval ratings for an incoming president, has inspired a wide range of voices to rise up against him, and the first signs of dissent erupted Thursday night outside the National Press Club.

An anti-fascist group, Refuse Fascism, protested a gathering of what it called “the Alt-Reich” outside the “DeploraBall” at the press club, where many figures associated with the white nationalist “alt-right” movement were assembled to celebrate Trump’s victory.

“Americans in favor of competent, America-first leadership were insulted, harassed, and assaulted for holding views contrary to those of the bicoastal, bipartisan ‘elites,’” ball organizers said on their Internet invitation to the party. “This was our election. We emerged victorious.”

Outside the building, the crowd briefly scuffled with the police, with some protesters throwing paper signs and what appeared to be firecrackers at officers.

Demonstrators chanted "Nazi scum, off our streets!" as well-dressed celebrants entered the building. The crowd booed as one man in a tuxedo walked in and displayed his middle finger to those outside.

"They are white supremacist fascists," group volunteer Desba Rojas said in an interview, referring to Trump and his vice president-elect, Mike Pence. "They are about to reinstate a fascist government."

Rojas said her goal was "to stop them from getting into office, and if they get into office, sopping them before they can consolidate” power.

On Wednesday, hundreds of LGBT activists shut down the streets around Pence’s home to protest his conservative record on gay rights as the governor of Indiana. They protested by dancing, bearing rainbow flags flapping in the breeze.

Leftist protesters are also planning to disrupt Inauguration Day, with a coalition called DisruptJ20 planning a march and other actions to disrupt security checkpoints. A different antiwar and anti-racism group, the ANSWER Coalition, was planning to hold permitted #InaugurateTheResistance demonstrations near the inaugural parade route.

Also significant is who won’t be there: dozens of congressional Democrats who, concerned about Trump’s agenda and possible Russian interference in the election, followed the lead of lifelong civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in refusing to attend Trump’s swearing-in. The liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org had collected more than 100,000 names on a digital petition in support of an inauguration boycott, which stated that “any politician who attends Trump's inauguration is normalizing and legitimizing a presidency that should only be resisted. Denounced. Defied. Boycotted.”

Security will be extraordinarily high, with large bags, signs with poles and long umbrellas banned. (Guns are not allowed to be carried openly in Washington, and concealed carry is allowed only if the gun owner has a license issued by the district.)

The local American Civil Liberties Union chapter said it planned to print 10,000 copies of a “know your rights” pamphlet for activists. As with many events expected to draw large protests, the National Lawyers Guild, a radical legal collective that provides legal support to protesters, has been recruiting legal observers to monitor protests, help jailed protesters and provide legal representation in court.

“The jail support team will handle hotlines, track arrests and assist people as they are released,” the guild said on its website. 

Paranoia has been running strong on both the left and the right, with signs of subterfuge already evident. Conservative activist James O’Keefe published undercover video of left-wing activists discussing how to disrupt the inauguration, presumably in an effort of his own to disrupt their plans. A mysterious new website called “Demand Protest” recently sprinkled Internet ads in cities around the U.S. claiming that it secretly hires paid protesters on behalf of the powerful — except there was nothing to suggest the program was genuine.

The big march of the weekend is scheduled for Saturday, when thousands of women — and men — will amass for the Women’s March on Washington. Simultaneous rallies were planned all over the country.

Ellison Langford, a 29-year-old employee of the University of Florida in Gainesville, couldn't find a cheap hotel around the District of Columbia, so she planned to board a chartered bus Friday night, ride all night to Washington and then protest after arriving on Saturday morning. She'll ride back that night — a long trip, but worth it.

“I moped for a couple days after the election results were announced, but then I resolved I didn't want to find myself in a position down the road where I wished I'd done more to resist the incoming administration,” Langford wrote in a direct message on Twitter.

She said “a LOT" of her friends were going too, with some planning to drive themselves.

"We're going a bunch of different ways,” Langford said, "but we're determined to get there."

matt.pearce@latimes.com

@mattdpearce

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
42°