Donald Trump yesterday took the oath of office and was sworn in to become the 45th president of what could now best be described as a divided United States of America.
This is even as America’s political divisions turned violent on the streets of Washington during Trump’s inauguration, as black clad anti-establishment activists smashed store windows and clashed, with police while Trump supporters cheered the new man in the White House.
Celebration and chaos collided at the inauguration, as that nation’s stark divide was on full display in Washington amid roars of support and eruptions of chaos throughout the city, including the removal of a half-dozen protesters who tried to disrupt the swearing-in ceremony.
67 democratic/congressmen also boycotted Trump’s inauguration to protest what they called his alarming and divisive policies, foreign interference in his election and his criticism of civil rights icon, John Lewis, a congressman from Georgia.
The US lawmakers had declared that they will not attend the inauguration on Capitol Hill this week. The number rose sharply after Trump tweeted last Saturday that Lewis (D) was “all talk, talk, talk” and should “finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities.”
Lewis, who considers Trump’s November 8 win as illegitimate because of Russia’s alleged interference in the election, became popular after leading civil rights protests in the 1960s, including the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., during which state troopers brutally attacked the crowd. Lewis will not attend the inauguration, he told NBC News in an interview for Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”
Trump had lashed out at the civil rights icon Saturday morning after Lewis said in a Friday interview he didn’t view Trump as “a legitimate president.” Lewis, a Georgia Democrat from an Atlanta-area district who protested alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., also said he would not attend the inauguration.
“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!”
Trump’s comments have drawn outrage and messages of support for Lewis from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Yvette Clark, D-N.Y. had also said in a tweet Saturday that she would not attend the inauguration because of the comments, saying, “When you insult @repjohnlewis, you insult America.”
The Washington Post reported that less than two miles from where Trump and former president Obama joined hundreds of other elected officials at the west front of the U.S. Capitol, anarchists armed with crowbars and hammers marched through the city’s streets, toppling over news boxes, smashing bus-stop glass, vandalizing businesses, spray-painting buildings and, in one case, bashing in the windows of a black limousine.
According to the paper, the acts of violence prompted helmeted police to chase the protesters with batons, hose them with pepper spray and apparently toss flash bangs into their ranks. Three D.C. police officers were injured and nearly 100 activists were arrested as the sound of explosions and sirens filled the air – marking the most intense confrontations in a day that began with protesters shutting down at least a few security checkpoints.
The confrontations intensified shortly before 2 p.m. as protesters hurled objects — including concrete bricks — at police in black riot gear, who fired back with more flash bangs and pepper spray.
As helicopters swirled overhead and well more than two dozen booms echoed through downtown buildings, dozens of demonstrators fled, coughing uncontrollably and pouring milk in their eyes to wash out the stinging liquid. Traffic throughout the area was left gridlocked. An hour later, the earlier-abused limousine was set ablaze, spreading the area with dark smoke before firefighters extinguished the flames.
D.C. Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham told CNN that there were “maybe a couple of hundred” protesters involved in the violence, noting that the city was hosting “thousands of others who are peacefully demonstrating.”
Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) also worried that the violent demonstrations would unfairly reinforce the image of the nation’s capital as a liberal bastion hostile to Trump and his supporters.
“Protesting is, in my opinion, your civil right. But I don’t want you coming in to my town and destroying my property,” Bonds said, suggesting that out-of-towners were at fault. “Go home and do it.”
The Reuters also reported that hundreds of people, some wearing masks, marched through downtown streets, using hammers to claw up chunks of pavement to smash the windows of a Bank of America branch and a McDonald’s outlet, all symbols of American capitalism.
The news agency noted that some people dragged garbage cans into a street a few blocks from the White House and set them ablaze, later throwing a red cap with Republican Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan into the flames.
The various protest groups scattered around the city chanted anti-Trump slogans and carried signs with slogans including “Trump is not president” and “Make Racists Afraid Again.”
Not all the demonstrators were anti-Trump. Members of Bikers for Trump assembled near the start of the route the new president took to the White House, shrugging off Trump opponents who briefly engaged them in a shouting match.
In his inaugural speech, Trump declared that power has returned to the American people. He said, “The United States of America is your country. What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
“January 20, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before”.
He also pointed out to an already divided country that he will pursue ‘America First’ policies at home and abroad.
“We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people.
“Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done,” he said.
His oath of office reads: “I Donald J. Trump do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States, so help me God.”
The crowd which came to view the swearing-in was said to have appeared to be significantly smaller than the estimated two million who were present for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.
At the inaugural speech, Trump said that, for several decades, America has enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, and subsidised the armies of other countries while allowing depletion of its military.
“We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own. And we’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay,” he said.
He pointed out that factories left the US with no thought of the millions of American workers that were left behind.
“The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future.
“We, assembled here today, are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.
“Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.’’