True to form, minutes after taking the oath of office, President Donald Trump positioned himself in opposition to the dignitaries on stage behind him, saying that on this day, “We are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
This scorn for mainstream politics drew cheers from Trump supporters assembled on the National Mall, many of whom wore red “Make America Great Again” hats. As both the tone of Trump’s speech and the protesters lining entrances to the Mall and parade route indicated, this inauguration represented a turn away from business as usual in Washington.
Kenneth Manny, a Vietnam Veteran who flew up from Florida for the inauguration welcomed this shift. He said he grew to support Trump in large measure because Manny is “tired of politics.”
“Trump wasn’t my first, second or third choice but the more the MSM [or mainstream media] slammed him and both parties slammed him, the more I looked into him,” said Manny, who wore a black hat with the yellow words “Vietnam Veteran.”
During his 16-minute inaugural address, Trump at times used forceful language to describe how his administration would break with the past. “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he said, referring to poverty, gang violence, industrial decay and problems with education.
Still, many in the crowd — both Trump supporters and protesters alike — spoke respectfully about those they disagreed with.
One protester, Alana Kessler, a 20-year-old sophomore at American University, said that when she spoke with Trump supporters she would show them a sign around her neck that said “free hugs.”
“I tell [Trump supporters] I’m not against you. We are all American. We are a country, but we need to become a community. The only way we can do that is by speaking up and talking to each other,” said Kessler, who also held a sign that said “I am a Jewish woman and I’m inspired to keep America great.”
As two Trump supporters from Westminster, Md., 19-year-old Dustin Banham and his uncle Greg Harrison, walked past Kessler and a circle of mostly women supporters chanting “No KKK, no fascist USA,” they said they supported their political opponents’ right to protest. “It’s their right, although I don’t think they should have bad language on their signs,” said Harrison.
Not all protesters were mild mannered.The New York Times reported that an hour before the inauguration protesters smashed shop windows around Franklin Square in downtown Washington and police officers in riot helmets used pepper spray to break up groups of protesters.
The first person to speak after Trump finished his address was Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who delivered a prayer composed mostly of quotes from the Bible. Hier has known the family of Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for decades, and his center has received donations from them.
“Dispense justice for the needy and the orphan, for they have no one but their fellow citizens,” Hier said. “A nation’s wealth is measured by its values and not its faults.”
In the lead-up to the inauguration, there was a good deal of discussion about how many people would actually turn out to watch the businessman and reality TV star take the oath of office. Trump himself called for “record-breaking crowds” to come to Washington.
While reliable estimates of the crowd size weren’t available in the hours after the inauguration, side-by-side photos of the Mall comparing the turnout for Trump to the inaugurations of 2008 and 2012 showed considerably fewer people this year.
Nevertheless, Trump declared the day a victory for “all Americans,” vowing that they “would never be ignored again.”
“The time for empty talk is over,” he said. “Now arrives the hour for action. Do not allow anyone to tell you it cannot be done.”