Inauguration protest March on Washington

11.25.17_Features_Catie Byrne_Protest_Catie Byrne3.jpg

Catie Byrne
Features Editor

On Jan. 20 at 1:30 a.m., my girlfriend and I left my dorm in a rush; a bag packed with little things, just enough to bring for a day trip. We were nervous of course, a lesbian couple heading to Washington D.C. to protest President Trump’s Inauguration.

We arrived at a meeting location with members of Greensboro’s ISO, International Socialist Organization. For the safety of ISO organizers involved, I will be omitting their names.

The bus left for Washington D.C. around 2 a.m., arrived at the Franconia-Springfield metro station in Virginia at 7 a.m. and there, bought inauguration metro passes. At 9 a.m. my girlfriend, ISO members and I, arrived at Navy Memorial.

Upon arrival on the streets, we were bombarded with vendors selling Trump inauguration paraphernalia — hats, T-shirts, buttons, ponchos and flags — if you wanted it, they had it.

One of the most unusual things handed to me upon arrival was a small flyer that read: “Inauguration Day Promises” in big bold letters, that more or less amounted to a variety of Jesus quotes on the back with the hashtag #JewsforJesus; an odd slogan given that Jews don’t believe in a divine Jesus, so I can only assume it to be unusual Messianic propaganda.

After being handed this unusual paper, anarchists took the street. A small group of about 10-15 people dressed in all black, marched with balaclavas and bandanas covering their faces, waving the black and red antifascist flag reading: “antifascist resistance.”

There was a moment where the enormity of the situation I was in sank in; surrounded by Trump merchandise, a #JewsforJesus pamphlet in hand as I saw anarchists march by, it dawned on me how serious and frightening the atmosphere was.

The moment broke when we began to move again. Initially everyone rendezvoused at a Starbucks (not the Starbucks that had windows broken by anarchists) and planned our next course of action; reaching one of the security checkpoints.

For almost three hours, we waited with other protesters attempting to reach one of the entrances.

However, due to heightened security; protesters were not allowed to pass. Hand in hand with my girlfriend, we walked and marched with ISO members as well as other protesters on our way to another security checkpoint.

The protest signs, posters and banners were all particularly unique, and ranged from those citing anti-Nazism and anti-racism, advocating for women’s’ rights, Black Lives Matter as well as those referencing Trump’s “baby hands.” The most cringe-worthy posters, to me, were those implying that Trump and Putin were gay together, one featuring a rather detailed homoerotic artwork of the two, implying they were in bed together.

In contrast, there seemed to be a dearth of any pro-Trump people in almost every area we marched. I can’t remember more than two counter protest signs on display within the crowds.

For the most part, I saw that Trump supporters stayed on the sidelines, seemingly outnumbered by protesters, occasionally agitating the crowd, then running away. One man, yelled “all lives matter” in response to protesters chanting “black lives matter” however, he was quickly drowned out.

Around noon, we started marching in the street, co-mingling with other anti-fascist groups as well as more liberal and politically unaffiliated protesters. After an hour and a half of marching in the streets, my girlfriend and I stopped at a sandwich shop on 13th and L Street.

While we were eating, my mother called me in a panic that police threw gas bombs on 12th Street, and shortly after speaking with her, gas bombs were thrown less than a block away from the restaurant. So close in fact, that employees locked us in.

After requesting to leave, however, they unlocked the doors for us. Around 2:30 p.m., my girlfriend and I met at McPherson Square with ISO members. It was drizzling at this point, and the temperature began to drop as we sat across from the Square.

We sat directly parallel from heavily armed military police patrolling the area with big Jeeps. It was both frightening and surreal, watching and listening to protesters sing, speak and chant, as these imposing military men also watched on.

Briefly, my girlfriend and I entered the Square to look around and take in the atmosphere. There was a giant elephant balloon decrying racism in the GOP, llamas and a vendor selling “Bernie hemp rolling paper” for the low cost of $2. I took a picture of a sign that said: “Alt-Right equals Neo Nazis.”

Around 3:15 p.m. on 17th Street, our group caught the eye of a certain former North Carolina governor; Pat McCrory. We began pursuing him, my girlfriend, ISO members and I, from 17th Street, to an alley on 1620 Street, chanting “Shame!”

McCrory was joined by a woman in a tan trench coat and a greying old man that I soon came to realize was television anchor, Lou Dobbs. I took pictures of McCrory, the woman and eventually, Dobbs, throughout the pursuit, getting so close, dare I say inches away from Dobbs, and no more than a foot away from McCrory.

We chanted and yelled and pursued McCrory for about five minutes. A three and a half minute video of our chanting circulated Facebook, and eventually, McCrory mean-mugged us but was notably quiet throughout the chanting and pursuit, turning his back to the group.

It took a long time for cops to show up and shoo us away, but it was an exhilarating experience, nonetheless.

My girlfriend, ISO members and I then met up at Potter’s House coffee shop, a place in which many socialists convened around 5:30 p.m. Around 6 p.m., my girlfriend, ISO members not staying for the Women’s March and I, made our trek to the metro to take us to the bus for our long trip back to Greensboro.

On the whole, the inauguration protest was surreal. It was almost easy for me to forget an inauguration was taking place in the first place, given the chaotic energy in the air on the streets of Washington.

In the midst of all the tanks, military Jeeps gas bombs and literal Neo Nazis, it was hard not be frightened as I clutched my girlfriend’s hand, marching onwards to an indiscernible destination of political unrest.

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