As the country prepares for a peaceful exchange of power from current President Barack Obama to President Elect Donald Trump on Friday, Washington D.C. is preparing for exactly the opposite.
As many as 900,000 people are expected to flood the city, some in support of the incoming president and many with the intention of protesting the man who did not secure a victory in the popular vote, but successfully amassed enough votes in the electoral college to win the highest office in the land.
A number of protests and liberal organizations have secured permits to conduct demonstrations, others are expected to be less organized. Many are also traveling to America’s capital city to demonstrate on behalf of the man they voted for, intent on preventing protestors from violating the sanctity of the swearing-in ceremony. Law enforcement in the city is prepared to conduct mass arrests in order to keep the peace between the two groups, but hope not to have to.
“The concern is some of these groups are pro-Trump, some of them are con-Trump, and they may not play well together in the same space,” Outgoing U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.
About twenty-eight thousand security personnel will be located throughout the city in order to keep the peace, bolstered by miles of fencing, road blocks, and barricades. Even dump trucks full of sand are being moved into place to help cordon off approximately three square miles of Washington D.C.
Among the largest anticipated protest groups will be the “Women’s March on Washington” which is believed to draw in as many as 250,000 supporters who intend to voice their concerns regarding the incoming president’s comments and behavior toward women in the past. Other protests are expected to include celebrities such as liberal film maker Michael Moore and SNL Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin.
One protest group has announced plans to distribute 4,200 joints at the inauguration, urging attendees to smoke them to protest Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who has spoken out frequently in opposition of legalizing marijuana.
Police and security officials in the city has made statements promising to protect the constitutional rights of protesters and supporters alike, but were clear that they were prepared to arrest people in large numbers in order to keep the peace and maintain the safety of all in attendance if need be.
“If we do have a mass arrest, we’ll be able to get people processed very quickly,” Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham told Washington’s NBC 4 television station.
Past contemporary inaugurations have been attended by as few as 300,000 people (George W. Bush in 2001) and as many as two million (Barack Obama in 2009).
Law enforcement groups are said to be tracking at least ninety-nine groups planning some sort of demonstration in and around the time of the inauguration, with sixty-three on Friday alone. Law enforcement intends to keep groups with opposing views separated in order to minimize the chances of violent interactions as tempers, as well as passions, fly amid the passing off of power.
A unified command post has been established, in which leadership from multiple agencies will be able to direct the small army of security and law enforcement personnel to the areas they are most needed. This year’s security measures have had to be adjusted from previous methodologies due to the dramatic increase of “lone wolf” terrorists acting independently, making them far harder to track and identify prior to committing a crime. Five hospitals in the area have been put on high alert in the event of any kind of attack or mass casualty event.
One protest group, called #DisruptJ20, has stated that they intend to participate in a number of permitted and “unpermitted” actions throughout the inauguration, such as forming a human blockade to prevent Donald Trump from reaching the ceremony itself.
“We intend basically to set the tone of resistance here for the coming years,” said Lacy MacAuley, a spokeswoman for the group.
Jeh Johnson has claimed that security personnel are aware of such plans and are taking “special precautions” to prevent them from occurring.
One can only hope that all protesters and demonstrators behave in a manner that is in keeping with one of America’s most sacred traditions: the peaceful transfer of power. While many American presidents have taken office amid controversy and anger, violence cannot be permitted as a means by which to influence American politics, and any intending to do so, if I may be so bold, represent the very worst of America, regardless of party lines.
Images courtesy of the New York Times