217 arrests as violence mars Washington protests


AFP

WASHINGTON — Masked, black-clad protesters carrying anarchist flags smashed windows, lit fires and scuffled with riot police Friday in downtown Washington, blocks from the parade in honor of newly sworn-in President Donald Trump. Washington police arrested at least 217 people for acts of vandalism committed on the fringe of peaceful citywide demonstrations against Trump’s inauguration. Just before the parade started, clashes broke out between 400 to 500 stone-throwing protesters and riot police, who responded with tear gas — the second violent flare-up in the space of a few hours. As Trump’s motorcade wound its way up Pennsylvania Avenue in the parade to the White House, protesters just a few blocks away set a parked limousine on fire after smashing its windows. An AFP reporter saw National Guardsmen donning helmets and bullet-proof vests, as protesters blocked traffic and set trash cans ablaze — chanting “Not my president” and “We resist President Trump.” City police chief Peter Newsham said at least 217 people were arrested and would be held overnight before appearing in front of a judge. “The charge is rioting,” he told reporters. “Our intention going into this event was to make zero arrests, and unfortunately they forced our hand.” Meanwhile, prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer was sucker punched in the street while giving an interview to journalists, according to footage of the incident circulating online. “No serious damage,” Spencer said on Twitter. “I can take a punch.” As the 70-year-old Trump, his supporters and top dignitaries gathered on the National Mall for the swearing-in ceremony, throngs of his opponents also converged on the U.S. capital. Most of the noisy protests — including those by an array of anti-racist, anti-war, feminist, LGBT, pro-immigration and marijuana legalization groups — were peaceful. But the protesters were intent on being heard — massing at the city’s Navy Memorial Plaza, along the parade route, and letting out a deafening roar as the presidential limousine known as “The Beast” drove by.

“Not my president!” they yelled, as the pro-Trump crowd in bleachers across the street chanted “USA!” Protesters along the route waved banners reading: “Try to deserve this office,” “Obama cares, Trump scares,” or “Make America Sane Again.”