US capital gears up for big protests at inauguration

WASHINGTON, DC • After a hard-fought presidential election that bitterly divided the nation, local and federal officials are preparing for about a million people to pour into the nation's capital and replay some of that drama on Jan 20, when Mr Donald Trump takes the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States.

Officials say they are anticipating a larger- than-usual number of protesters this inauguration but are unsure of exactly what to expect as they converge with Mr Trump's supporters at the inaugural ceremony at the US Capitol, the parade that will follow and several planned demonstrations.

But they say they'll be ready with thousands of police officers and National Guard members from across the country assigned to Washington, DC, for the weekend. Hotels and rentals in the capital are filling up. And city officials are expecting more than 1,500 charter buses.

"Given how close and embattled the actual campaign was, I can't say we'd have more or fewer police officers if the decision had gone a different way," said Mr Christopher T. Geldart, director of the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

"But, either way this was going to go, we knew we would be dealing with more folks requesting space for exercising their First Amendment rights. And that's what we're seeing."

FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

But either way this was going to go, we knew we would be dealing with more folks requesting space for exercising their First Amendment rights.

MR CHRISTOPHER T. GELDART, director of the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

In January, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies - which is responsible for planning the event - plans to give members of Congress about 240,000 tickets to the inauguration, on a par with the number in years past. Individual members of Congress will then give the tickets to constituents. So far, Mr Geldart said, the planned security presence is similar to those of previous inaugurations. Authorities expect that up to a million people will attend the inauguration and parade, in addition to a still undetermined number of demonstrators.

Along with DC police, the city will bring in 3,200 law enforcement officers from across the country to man the parade route. Seven thousand members of the National Guard will also be in the city, unarmed but keeping watch. US Capitol Police, which will also have a large security presence, would not comment on its inauguration plans.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2016, with the headline 'US capital gears up for big protests at inauguration'. Print Edition | Subscribe