|01-20-2017, 10:26 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Inauguration protesters clash with police, as violence escalates
WASHINGTON – Violent and destructive Inauguration Day protests escalated Friday afternoon ahead of the ceremonial parade, as demonstrators smashed window fronts and clashed with police -- who used pepper spray and tear gas to try and control the crowd.
Authorities said roughly 90 people have been arrested so far.
In the downtown Washington area, blocks north of the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, black-clad protesters hurled rocks at police in riot guard who used pepper spray and explosives, known as “flash bangs,” in response.
At least three officers from the Metropolitan Police Department, the District of Columbia’s agency, suffered non-life-threatening injuries related to demonstrators smashing several storefronts shortly after noon -- damaging a Bank of America, Starbucks and McDonald's about four blocks east of the White House.
A car in the area also was reportedly set on fire.
MPD Chief Peter Newsham said the rioters caused “significant damage” to the businesses and that a bystander also was injured.
He also said that he is so far pleased with MPD's response to the incidents and that the department is prepared for anything else.
Protesters started in the pre-dawn hours holding rallies and blocking entrances to security checkpoints.
Members of Black Lives Matter forced the Secret Service to close one checkpoint after hours of sitting in front of the gates and chaining themselves to fences to keep visitors from getting to the parade and other official inauguration events.
A Kansas couple told FoxNews.com they were attacked at the checkpoint by demonstrators.
Celeste Sollars, who said she and her husband came to town from Kansas to see the inauguration, said they were spit on and her husband was put in a chokehold by protesters.
"The cops wouldn't do anything,” she said, crying. “This is not how it was supposed to be -- assault is not a First Amendment right.”
Sollars said she was attacked -- as demonstrators followed through on threats to disrupt President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural ceremonies.
“We are here to let people know this presidency is not legit. It goes against hundreds of years of democracy -- black lives matter,” BLM DC’s Tracye Redd told FoxNews.com.
The efforts were part of an operation apparently under the umbrella of DisruptJ20, which vowed to blockade and shut down security checkpoints.
The incidents come as Trump protesters and supporters alike descend on downtown Washington for the inauguration.
“I’m here to join Bikers for Trump,” said Bill McCann, who rode his motorcycle to the nation’s capital from Fort Worth, Texas. “Ever since Mr. Trump announced his candidacy, I’ve supported him 100 percent.”
McCann spoke under the light of the Capitol Rotunda as protesters with the anti-war group Jewish Voice for Peace rallied just blocks away, amid a heavy police presence.
“We’re here to say that whoever is president, ‘No more war,’ ” said Naomi Dann, of Brooklyn. “The incoming president hasn’t said whether he’s a pacifist, but I’m pretty sure he’s not.”
Dann said her concerns and those of other group members include “targeting Muslims” and increased surveillance.
“A lot of people are angry,” she said.
An estimated 800,000 people are expected in Washington for Inauguration Day, including tens of thousands of protesters.
On Thursday night, Trump supporters attending the “Deploraball” at the National Press Club Building, just blocks from the White House, were met by hundreds of protesters. Some sprayed Mace, and a passerby with a gash on his head said he was struck by a bottle that was thrown.
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