Protesters, Trump backers to descend on Washington

A security cordon is being put up around central Washington ahead of the presidential inauguration today, which includes Mr Trump's swearing-in on the steps of the US Capitol (back) and a street parade to the White House.
A security cordon is being put up around central Washington ahead of the presidential inauguration today, which includes Mr Trump's swearing-in on the steps of the US Capitol (back) and a street parade to the White House.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Security ramped up ahead of inauguration, expected to be attended by 900,000 people

WASHINGTON • The American capital has been turned into a virtual fortress ahead of Mr Donald Trump's presidential inauguration today, as Washington braces itself for more than 250,000 protesters expected during the swearing-in.

Police have predicted that some 900,000 people, both supporters and opponents, will flood Washington for the inauguration ceremony, which includes the swearing-in on the steps of the US Capitol and a parade to the White House.

Many of those attending will be protesters irate about Mr Trump's demeaning comments on women, immigrants and Muslims, his vow to repeal the sweeping healthcare reform law known as Obamacare and plans to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. His supporters, meanwhile, admire his experience in business, including as a property developer and reality television star, and view him as an outsider and problem-solver.

To boost attendance at the inaugural festivities, Mr Trump advertised on social media with a video in which he asks supporters to join him for "our moment in American history". The "sponsored" content started popping up on both Facebook and Instagram, and the Trump team also sent the video out through text messages to those on its expansive contact list.

About 28,000 security personnel, kilometres of fencing, roadblocks, street barricades and dump trucks full of sand will be part of the security cordon clamped around 8 sq km of central Washington.

About 30 groups that organisers claim will draw about 270,000 protesters or Trump backers have received permits for rallies or marches before, during and after the swearing-in. More protests without permits are expected.

By far the biggest protest will be the Women's March on Washington tomorrow, which organisers expect to draw 250,000 people. Hundreds of Women's March-related protests are scheduled across the country and around the world.

An anti-Trump protest was scheduled for New York last night when Mayor Bill de Blasio, filmmaker Michael Moore and actors like Alec Baldwin, who portrays Mr Trump on the Saturday Night Live show, were to take part in a rally outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower. A major group of protesters, Disrupt J20, has vowed to stage demonstrations at each of the 12 security checkpoints and block access to the festivities on the grassy National Mall.

Five of the biggest hospitals in Washington have been put on alert, and staff were told not to schedule elective operations to keep beds available.

REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2017, with the headline 'Protesters, Trump backers to descend on Washington'. Print Edition | Subscribe