The story from Washington, D.C. today was a story of rejection.
Inside the labyrinthine police perimeter surrounding the official inaugural ceremony for President Donald Trump, that rejection manifest as empty space where people were supposed to be. One widely reported crowd estimate claimed only 250,000 showed up to see Trump take the Oath of Office—a stunning decline from the 1.8 million people who attended Barack Obama's 2008 inaugural.
Throughout the day, DC Metro cars were running nearly empty. The streets were eerily deserted. The police, National Guard and private security lining protest and parade routes stood around looking bored.
Outside the perimeter, the rejection manifest as chanting, marching and little a bit of street fighting. The day's demonstrations were largely peaceful and well-organized, but a prominent white nationalist did get sucker punched on camera, some scuffles did break out, and some bank windows were smashed. (All of the injured parties no doubt had insurance, unlike the millions of people who stand to lose coverage under Republican proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act.)
The place to be in the morning hours was at Duport Circle, where marijuana legalization advocates handed out thousands upon thousands of remarkably high-quality joints. By 11 am, crowds were re-forming at a number of gathering points around the city.
Socialists, communists and organized labor met at the Liberty Bell replica outside Union Station for a period of Marxist lectures. They then marched to join the anarchist-led demonstration, which funneled together with all of the others at McPherson Square.
In the days before the inauguration, authorities set about erecting a sprawling maze of tall, sturdy metal fencing not only around the Mall and the national monuments, but along surrounding streets. These traffic-control measures created an opportunity for demonstrators to link hands, chain themselves down and effectively block Trump supporters from joining the official festivities.
Protest organizers claimed to have established human barricades at seventeen separate inaugural entrances early in the morning. By 1 p.m., however, only two were still standing—one led by representatives of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and another by the feminist activists group Code Pink.
At the Code Pink barricade on 10th and F Street Northwest, a number of self-declared Trump supporters attempted to trample through the line, which was comprised mostly of women. D.C. police showed a fair amount of restraint when scuffles and shoving matches broke out, often sending protesters and Trump supporters their separate ways rather than breaking bones or making arrests.
Adapting to protesters' tactics, police to set up their own line a block away from the Code Pink barricade, where they questioned passersby about their intentions, sending Trump supporters one way, and protesters another.
Before sundown, the anarchist contingent on K Street made its big publicity play. Trash cans were burned and a limousine was torched. The smoke and flames led the riot police to advance on the crowd, clearing a path for firefighters, but by sundown, the police had made no further moves and the demonstrations had wound down to become, basically, another party in the park.
Meanwhile, scattered handfuls of tuxedoed white people slunk through the barren streets, ducking into bars and steakhouses for the dismal Inaugural Balls.