On Friday afternoon following the inauguration and swearing in of President Donald Trump in Washington DC, a gathering of protesters in the downtown portion of the city turned chaotic as a small group of anti-Trump self-declared “anti-fascists” clashed with police.
While a large number of marchers and demonstrators were peaceful, some of the protesters attempted to set up ad hoc barricades, and hurled objects such as rocks, plastic bottles, and small pieces of cement block towards the cops.
The police responded by firing off flash bangs and pepper spray in attempts to disperse the crowd.
Much of the incident occurred near the intersection of K and 12th and 13th Streets NW. Protesters chanted such popular slogans as “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” and the more succinct “Fuck Donald Trump.”
Interim police chief Peter Newsham told reporters that it was just a small group, “maybe a couple hundred,” causing the chaos, literally “thousands of others” were peacefully demonstrating. One man dressed in black smashed the window of a McDonald’s with a hammer, while others tipped over bins around an hour before the start of Mr Trump’s ceremony.
A Bank of America branch and a Starbucks were among the other buildings targeted. Some were armed with bats and long wooden poles and there were unconfirmed reports of looting.
Police responded with tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades and water cannon to disperse the protesters, who fled away from lines of officers.
Police cordoned off a crowd of around 100 demonstrators who chanted “hands up, don’t shoot”, as a helicopter hovered overhead. Supporters shouted “let them go” amid fears of mass arrests.
Reporters at the scene said protesters attempted to break lines of police wearing full riot gear and wielding batons, but were pushed back by pepper spray and stun grenades.
Observers said the disorder appeared to be organised, with the black-clad group splitting from a larger protest before launching the wave of vandalism.
Police detained about 50 people and said they had charged numerous people with rioting. The group of detainees became a flash point after Mr Trump was sworn in, when a crowd of several hundred that had formed to call for their release turned violent, with some throwing bottles and rocks at police who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
Two police officers sustained minor injuries from people who were trying to avoid arrest, police said.
Some groups had vowed to disrupt the inauguration ceremony, with members of#disruptj20 attempting to block ticket holders from entering the venue at security checkpoints. At one checkpoint, protesters wore orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their faces to represent prisoners in US detention at Guantanamo Bay, which Barack Obama pledged to close.
Black Lives Matter and feminist groups also made their voices heard. Outside the International Spy Museum, protesters in Russian hats marched with signs calling Mr Trump “Putin’s Puppet” and “Kremlin employee of the month”.
Most Trump supporters walking to the inauguration past Union Station ignored protesters outside the railway station, but some shouted back and argued with demonstrators.
“Get a job,” shouted Doug Rahm, a Bikers for Trump member from Philadelphia. “Stop crying snowflakes, Trump won.”