Washington turned into a virtual fortress on Thursday ahead of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, while thousands of people took to the streets of New York and Washington to express their displeasure with his coming administration.
Some 900,000 people, both Trump backers and opponents, are expected to flood Washington for Friday’s inauguration ceremony, according to organizers’ estimates. Events include the swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol and a parade to the White House along streets thronged with spectators.
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“It’s a movement like we’ve never seen anywhere in the world,” the president-elect declared at a celebratory evening concert Thursday night with the majestic Lincoln Memorial for a backdrop.
To the unwavering supporters who were with him from the start, he promised: “You’re not forgotten any more. You’re not forgotten anymore.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he called out, and then fireworks exploded into the evening sky.
Trump began taking on more trappings of the presidency during the day, giving a salute to the Air Force officer who welcomed him as he stepped off a military jet with wife Melania at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington. Later, he placed a ceremonial wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.
At a luncheon in a ballroom at his own hotel, he gave a shout-out to Republican congressional leaders, declaring: “I just want to let the world know we’re doing very well together.” House Speaker Paul Ryan, he said, will finally have someone to sign legislation into law. Then Trump veered into the territory of the unknowable to boast his Cabinet selections had “by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever.”
Just blocks away, the White House was quickly emptying out. President Barack Obama had his final weekly lunch with Vice-President Joe Biden and got in a few final official acts, cutting the sentences of 330 inmates and placing a call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, in a tweet, called Inauguration Eve “a momentous day before a historic day,” as security barricades and blockades went up around Washington in preparation for Friday’s swearing-in at the Capitol.
“We are all ready to go to work,” Pence said. “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’d be putting on his “favourite DHS jacket” and taking to the streets to inspect security preparations for the inaugural festivities.
He told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that areas where inaugural crowds will congregate will be “extra fortified this year with dump trucks, heavily armoured vehicles to prevent anybody who’s not authorized from being in the area from driving something in there.” He said there was “no specific credible threat” related to the inauguration.
Trump’s public schedule for the inaugural celebration began at Arlington, where he and Pence stood at attention as a bugler played taps at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Trump’s wife, children and grandchildren silently looked on.
From there, Trump shuttled to a celebratory welcome concert on the steps of Lincoln Memorial that ended with fireworks filling the sky.
The concert, open to the public, offered headliners including country star Toby Keith, soul’s Sam Moore and rockers 3 Doors Down. But not singer Jennifer Holliday: She backed out after an outcry from Trump critics.
“This is some day, dear friends,” actor Jon Voight told the crowd, casting Trump’s impending inauguration as evidence of divine intervention after “a parade of propaganda that left us all breathless with anticipation, not knowing if God could reverse all the negative lies against Mr. Trump.”
The crowd sent up a cheer when the giant screens flashed video of Trump singing along as Lee Greenwood delivered his signature “God Bless the USA.” Trump declared such a concert had a never been done before. In fact, a number of past presidents have staged inaugural concerts among the monuments.
Tom Barrack, the chief architect of Trump’s inaugural festivities, said Trump would show the world that “we can argue, we can fight and we can debate,” but then the nation unites behind one president.
Trump, though, still had an urge to rehash particulars of the long, 18-month campaign, from its early days when he claimed “a lot of people didn’t give us much of a chance” to the final weeks when his rallies took him to “state after state after state.”
Spokesman Sean Spicer said the president-elect was still making “edits and additions” to the inaugural address he’ll deliver at Friday’s swearing-in.
Forging his gilded private plane, Trump made his Washington entrance on a Boeing 757 that is part of the fleet of military planes that become Air Force One whenever the president is aboard. The president-elect, who came to Washington without any press on his plane, was joined on the trip by his children, grandchildren and other members of his extended family.
At the luncheon, Trump made sure to work in a plug for his hotel, saying, “This is a gorgeous room. A total genius must have built this place.” Reporters covering Trump’s remark were removed from the room before the president-elect finished speaking.
Ebullient Trump fans were ready for a three-day party.
“We’re hoping for good weather and hoping for some unity,” said Jon-Paul Oldham, a firefighter who came from Thomaston, Connecticut. He said everyone should want Trump to succeed.
“Wanting him to fail is like wanting the plane to crash but you’re on the plane,” Oldham said.
Anti-Trump protests swell in numbers
The number of planned protests and rallies this year is far above what has been typical at recent presidential inaugurations, with some 30 permits granted in Washington for anti-Trump rallies and sympathy protests planned in cities from Boston to Los Angeles, and outside the US in cities including London and Sydney.
The night before the inauguration, thousands of people turned out in New York for a rally at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, and then marched a few blocks from the Trump Tower where the businessman lives.
The rally featured a lineup of politicians, activists and celebrities including Mayor Bill de Blasio and actor Alec Baldwin, who trotted out the Trump parody he performs on “Saturday Night Live.”
“Donald Trump may control Washington, but we control our destiny as Americans,” de Blasio said. “We don’t fear the future. We think the future is bright, if the people’s voices are heard.”
In Washington, a group made up of hundreds of protesters clashed with police clad in riot gear who used pepper spray against some of the crowd on Thursday night, according to footage on social media.
The confrontation occurred outside the National Press Club building, where inside a so-called “DeploraBall” event was being held in support of Trump, the footage showed.
US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said police aimed to keep groups separate, using tactics similar to those employed during last year’s political conventions.
“The concern is some of these groups are pro-Trump, some of them are con-Trump, and they may not play well together in the same space,” Johnson said on MSNBC.
Trump opponents have been angered by his comments during the campaign about women, illegal immigrants and Muslims and his pledges to scrap the Obamacare health reform and build a wall on the Mexican border.
Trump’s inauguration day
The outline for Trump’s inauguration is as follows:
After breakfast and a church service, Trump and his wife, Melania, will meet outgoing President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. Following tradition, Trump and Obama will ride together down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will swear in Mike Pence as vice president. Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office to Trump. Trump will then give an inaugural address expected to last about 20 minutes.
As many as 900,000 people are expected to turn out for the event, including thousands of protesters. After the ceremony, the Obamas will leave the Capitol to begin their post-White House lives. Trump and Pence will stay for lunch.
Starting around 3 pm (2000 GMT), Trump, Pence and their families will lead a parade up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
Donald and Melania Trump may step out of their limousine briefly along the parade route to wave to well-wishers. Three inaugural balls are scheduled in the evening.
Following tradition, Obama will leave his successor a letter in the Oval Office desk. Its contents have not been divulged.
Former presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. George H. W. Bush, who is in the hospital, along with his wife Barbara, will not attend. He sent Trump a letter wishing him good luck.
Clinton will arrive with his wife, Hillary, who lost the presidency to Trump in last November. Since then, Hillary has made few public appearances, and the question remains whether she and Trump—who delivered blow after blow to Hillary and her husband—will acknowledge one another.
A man of two bibles
The Presidential Inaugural Committee says Donald Trump will be sworn in as president Friday using two Bibles — his own and the Bible that Abraham Lincoln used at his first inauguration. The oath of office will be administered by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Committee chairman Tom Barrack says Trump “is humbled to place his hand on Bibles that hold special meaning both to his family and to our country.” Trump’s Bible was presented to him by his mother upon his graduation from Sunday Church Primary School at First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens, on June 12, 1955. The Bible is a revised standard version published by Thomas Nelson and Sons in New York in 1953 and is embossed with Trump’s name on the lower portion of the front cover.
The Lincoln Bible was purchased by William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the Supreme Court, and is bound in burgundy velvet with a gold-washed white metal rim along the edges of the covers. After Lincoln’s first inauguration in 1861, it was next used for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 and again in 2013.
Bikers for Trump, a group that designated itself as security backup during last summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, is ready to step in if protesters block access to the inauguration, said Dennis Egbert, one of the group’s organizers.
“We’re going to be backing up law enforcement. We’re on the same page,” Egbert, 63, a retired electrician from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
About 28,000 security personnel, miles of fencing, roadblocks, street barricades and dump trucks laden with sand are part of the security cordon around 3 square miles (8 square km) of central Washington.
A protest group known as Disrupt J20 has vowed to stage demonstrations at each of 12 security checkpoints and block access to the festivities on the grassy National Mall.
Police and security officials have pledged repeatedly to guarantee protesters’ constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.
Aaron Hyman, fellow at the National Gallery of Art, said he could feel tension in the streets ahead of Trump’s swearing-in and the heightened security was part of it.
“People are watching each other like, ‘You must be a Trump supporter,’ and ‘You must be one of those liberals’,” said Hyman, 32, who supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election.
Friday’s crowds are expected to fall well short of the 2 million people who attended Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, and be in line with the 1 million who were at his second in 2013.
Forecast rain may also dampen the turnout, though security officials lifted an earlier ban on umbrellas, saying small umbrellas would be permitted.
By Ynet News , Reuters & Associated Press