Women descend on DC a day after anarchists create chaos

2017-01-21 10:42

Washington - A day after self-described anarchists created chaos, thousands of women are descending upon Washington for what is expected to be a more orderly show of force on the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency.

Organisers of Saturday's Women's March on Washington expect more than 200 000 people to attend their gathering, a number that could rival Trump's swearing-in ceremony. Attendees are "hurting and scared" as the new president takes office and want a greater voice for women in political life, according to the organisers' mission statement.

"In the spirit of democracy and honouring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore," the statement says.

Women and other groups were demonstrating across the nation and as far abroad as Myanmar and Australia.

In Sydney, thousands of Australians marched in solidarity in the city's central Hyde Park. One organiser said hatred, bigotry and racism are not only America's problems.

The Washington gathering, which features a morning rally and afternoon march, comes a day after protesters set fires and hurled bricks in a series of clashes that led to more than 200 arrests. Police used pepper spray and stun grenades to prevent the chaos from spilling into Trump's formal procession and evening balls.

About 2km from the National Mall, police gave chase to a group of about 100 protesters who smashed the windows of downtown businesses including a Starbucks, a Bank of America and a McDonald's as they denounced capitalism and Trump.

"They began to destroy property, throw objects at people, through windows. A large percentage of this small group was armed with crowbars and hammers," said the city's interim police chief, Peter Newsham.

Six officers suffered minor injuries, he said.

The confrontation began an hour before Trump took the oath of office and escalated several hours later as the crowd of protesters swelled to more than 1 000, some wearing gas masks and with arms chained together inside PVC pipe. One said the demonstrators were "bringing in the cavalry".

'Put the pigs in the ground'

When some crossed police lines, taunting, "Put the pigs in the ground," police charged with batons and pepper spray, as well as stun grenades, which are used to shock and disperse crowds. Booms echoed through the streets about six blocks from where Trump would soon hold his inaugural parade.

Some protesters picked up bricks and concrete from the sidewalk and hurled them at police lines. Some rolled large, metal trash cans at police. Later, they set fire to a limousine on the perimeter of the secured zone, sending black smoke billowing into the sky during Trump's procession.

As night fell, protesters set a bonfire blocks from the White House and frightened well-dressed Trump supporters as they ventured to the new president's inaugural balls. Police briefly ordered ball goers to remain inside their hotel as they worked to contain advancing protesters.

Police said they charged 217 people with rioting, said Newsham, noting that the group caused "significant damage" along a number of blocks.

Before Inauguration Day, the DisruptJ20 coalition, named after the date of the inauguration, had promised that people participating in its actions in Washington would attempt to shut down the celebrations, risking arrest when necessary.

It was unclear whether the groups will be active on Saturday.

1 800 buses 

The Women's March on Washington features a morning rally with a speaking lineup that includes a series of celebrities, Scarlett Johansson, America Ferrara, Amy Schumer, Frances McDormand and Zendaya, among them.

Christopher Geldart, the District of Columbia's homeland security director, said he expects the march to draw more than 200 000. He said 1 800 buses have registered to park in the city on January 21, which would mean nearly 100 000 people coming in just by bus.

Friday's protests spread across the nation. In San Francisco, thousands formed a human chain on the Golden Gate Bridge and chanted "Love Trumps hate". In the city's financial district, a few hundred protesters blocked traffic outside an office building partly owned by Trump.

In Atlanta, protests converged at City Hall and a few hundred people chanted and waved signs protesting Trump, denouncing racism and police brutality and expressing support for immigrants, Muslims and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Nashville, half a dozen protesters chained themselves to the doors of the Tennessee Capitol. Hundreds also sat in a 10-minute silent protest at a park while Trump took the oath of office. Organisers led a prayer, sang patriotic songs and read the Declaration of Independence aloud.

In the Pacific Northwest, demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, burned US flags and students at Portland State University walked out of classes. About 200 protesters gathered on the Capitol steps in Olympia, Washington, carrying signs that included the messages "Resist Trump" and "Not My Problem".

Read more on:    donald trump  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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