Protesters and Washington police scuffled Thursday night outside a meeting of pro-Donald Trump conservatives, the first of several demonstrations aimed at disrupting the new administration’s inaugural weekend.
Protesters gathered on 14th Street outside the National Press Club to demonstrate against “DeploraBall,” an event organized by some of Trump’s most fervent supporters. The name riffs off the campaign description of some Trump backers by his defeated opponent, Hillary Clinton, as a “basket of deplorables.”
As attendees some of whom were clad in suits and red hats, others dressed in gowns entered the event, demonstrators chanted “Shame” and “Nazis go home” behind a phalanx of police. Some held signs that read “No Alt Reich” and “No Nazi USA.”Other protesters chanted against the “alt-right,” “fascists” and “Nazi scum,” though it could not be immediately determined who was attending the event.
The chants were screamed when attendees entered or left the event, but died down when there was no one coming or going. Some demonstrators threw eggs at the National Press Club building and at revelers, though not at police.
Elsewhere in the demonstration, some protesters could be seen setting small fires in the streets, though it was unclear what was set ablaze. A motorcycle was damaged on the street, and police could be seen pepper-spraying some protesters.Hugh Carew, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said there were no immediate reports of injuries and he could not confirm the use of pepper spray or provide an estimate of the crowd size. Later in the evening, authorities announced the arrest of Scott Ryan Charney, 34, of Washington, who was charged with conspiracy to commit an assault.When attendees began to leave the event shortly before 9 p.m. ET, protesters followed them down the street, which lead to more scuffles with police. Shortly afterward, riot police arrived on the scene.
“This is to build up momentum and mobilize people so that whatever s— is coming down the pipe with Trump and (Vice president-elect Mike) Pence — their regime — we need to be ready,” said Sarko Sarkodie, 26, who lives in Washington.Asked why she was protesting, Sarkodie replied, “The alt-right’s vision for this country is not the one that we need. I’m out here tonight because I want to be part of the resistance efforts happening this week, and the resistance that’ll be happening the next four years.”
By 11 p.m., the protest had largely dispersed.
Less than a mile away, more festive activists gathered for the “Peace Ball” at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.Attendees in black tie apparel sipped drinks and enjoyed entertainment, including artist Solange, in a celebratory atmosphere.The event was ostensibly nonpartisan, but many of those in attendance are also planning to go to Saturday’s women’s march, including actors Ashley Judd, Fran Drescher and Danny Glover.
Onstage, poet Sonia Sanchez encouraged attendees to “resist” the incoming administration in a speech on stage. The audience cheered.
The Women’s March gets ready for prime-time
The protests will be both politically and tactically diverse. Yasmina Mrabet, an organizer for the ANSWER Coalition, was critical of demonstrators who planned to assemble without permits, calling their actions a “diversion, not strategic.””It’s our perspective that we can make the strongest statement if all people of conscience gather at the same time and the same place and voice their dissent along the parade route,” Mrabet said. “That’s very important to us from a political perspective because we will be in the eye of the national and international media.”The Women’s March on Washington, which begins near Capitol Hill at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, will follow stricter guidelines, both on the streets and in their carefully crafted political message. In response to outside criticism and internal squabbling over its purpose, a group of 15 organizers drafted a “guiding vision and definition of principles” that details the march’s goals.Organizers now say internal divisions, many of them stemming from a divisive Democratic primary fight, are being put aside in the name of solidarity.
“We have already proven that Hillary and Bernie Sanders supporters can work together against fascism, xenophobia, and racism,” Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American Muslim activist from Brooklyn, told CNN in an interview late Wednesday.The Saturday protest, which began with a modest Facebook call in the aftermath of the election, has grown in to what could be one of the larger political demonstrations in DC. Sarsour believe forecasts for a warm and dry Saturday could boost turnout beyond the expected 250,000, with at least two dozen elected officials having confirmed their plans to take part.*There are more than 600 “sister marches” now planned around the country and fundraising for the event has largely come in chunks of $20 and $30 online donations.
“It really reminds me of the Sanders campaign,” Sarsour said. “A very grassroots, very grass-powered movement.”