WASHINGTON (CN) – Emergency crews put out a giant fire at 12th and K streets on Friday, hours after the inauguration ceremony of President Donald Trump as riots grip the city.
Protesters chanted “Not my president” as police used flash-bang grenades to disperse the crowd.
The fire, billowing flames and smoke from a vandalized limousine, was part of a tide of protests just off of Franklin Square in northwest Washington, mere blocks from both the White House and Trump’s parade route. Activist gathered around two stages set up in Franklin Square and nearby McPherson Square, where clouds of marijuana smoke pooled with loud punk rock and chanting.
The K Street fire occurred directly in front of the Washington Post headquarters. Police used mace and loud concussion grenades to control the scene. Some protesters claimed the police were using tear gas, but the Metropolitan Police Department told NPR they were using only pepper spray.
Occasionally a loud bang would come from the crowd, causing the protesters to scatter but ultimately return to the street.
The protesters, most of them young, held flags and signs voicing their disgust over Trump’s election.
“This is the first time I’ve ever protested in my entire life and I’m not going to stop,” said a woman from Colorado who did not want to be named. “For four years I am going to keep reminding those Trump people that this so-called president is a complete joke and an embarrassment, and I’m not going to stop.”
A helicopter circled over the tightly packed mass of people, which covered most of the block and spilled over into the grassy square.
The protests were still raging Friday when Colorado-based criminal defense attorney Benjamin Carraway filed a class action against Metropolitan Police Department officers over his treatment at the protest.
“Around the time of Trump’s swearing in, John Doe MPD Officers and John Doe Park Police officers surrounded individuals who were at or near 12th & L St., NW,” the complaint states. “Without warning and without any dispersal order, the police officers kettled all of the plaintiffs. Defendants included in the kettle not only protesters who had engaged in no criminal conduct, but also members of the media, attorneys, legal observers, and medics. Defendants proceeded to indiscriminately and repeatedly deploy chemical irritants, attack the individuals with batons, and throw flash-bang grenades at the kettled individuals.”
Carraway insists that neither he nor anyone in the class “destroyed or attempted to destroy property, assaulted or attempted to assault any individuals, rioted, or in any way would have appeared to the police to have been breaking the law.”
The self-described peaceful protesters are represented by Jeffrey Light.
Though most of the protesters who took to the streets Friday were proclaiming their objection to the election, others clung to other causes, such as the protest of the pipeline beside Native American land belonging to the Standing Rock tribe.
There were also people protesting against capitalism and the war in Syria, causing a confusing melting pot of displeasure in the streets.
On one street corner at the edge of the protests, a group of Trump supporters carried a large American flag over a blue Trump-Pence flag into the crowd, eventually starting a shouting match with a bearded man standing on a raised corner of a building.
The bearded man, who said he supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, called Trump racist and sexist. He demanded that Trump supporters “look into [his] eyes” and tell him they were not concerned with allegations that Trump groped women without their consent.
But the Trump supporters simply shot back, “who is your president?”
Before the man on the side of the building could answer, the supporters shouted back, “Trump, Trump, Trump.”
Earlier in the evening, down the street in McPherson Square, another group of Trump supporters and protesters had a starkly different interaction.
There, Jacob Rivera, who wore a bright red “Make America Great Again” hat, debated politics with Andrew Arkwright, a 21-year-old Virginian who describes himself as liberal.
Arkwright said he had seen Rivera in the square proudly displaying his hat and warned him that he had seen violence between the protesters and Trump supporters earlier in the day. From there Rivera and Arkwright said they started a “dialogue,” which slowly built into a circle of roughly 10 people debating Trump’s election with relative calm.
“It’s very hypocritical of the left, the people gathered here, to preach tolerance of African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, but not to be tolerant of the right-wing political spectrum, to just completely denounce it without hearing out what they have to say and why they believe the things they do,” Arkwright said.