US protesters vandalise buildings in Portland and Seattle

In a photo from Jan 17, 2021, a protester holds a sign outside the statehouse in Concord, New Hampshire. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK (REUTERS, NYTIMES) - Anti-government and anti-fascist protesters in Portland and Seattle vandalised a Democratic Party office and other buildings and scuffled with police on Wednesday (Jan 20), protesting against US President Joe Biden's inauguration.

People dressed in black and with their faces covered broke windows and the glass door at the Democratic Party of Oregon business office in Portland, spray-painting an anarchist symbol over the party sign, video posted on social media showed.

"We don't want Biden. We want revenge for police murders, imperialist wars, and fascist massacres," read a banner they marched under.

The new Democratic president was sworn in on Wednesday, urging unity and restoration after Republican Donald Trump's divisive tenure.

Portland has been the scene of unrest for months, with civil rights, anarchist and anti-fascist protesters scuffling with police and occasionally with right-wing militias and Trump supporters.

Before descending on the Democratic Party office, some protesters from a group of about 150 scuffled with police on bicycles, police said in a statement.

In Seattle, police said multiple sites had been vandalized and posted pictures of the damage, including what appeared to be of an Amazon Go store.

Meanwhile, there was calm at several other state capitols nationwide which had braced themselves for chaos, installing fences and bolstering security before Mr Biden's inauguration at the US Capitol, two weeks after the building was breached by pro-Trump rioters.

Those who gathered on Wednesday did so by the handful, falsely claiming that the election was stolen.

A lone protester in front of the state Capitol in Concord, New Hampshire, held a Trump-Pence campaign sign with "Pence" scratched out in black marker.

The man, who declined to give his name because he feared retribution and "a subversive communist police state", said he had crossed off the former vice-president's name because he had presided over the joint session of Congress that certified Mr Biden's election.

He added that he had taken the day off to be there and was surprised that not a single other demonstrator had shown up. He left the plaza before Mr Biden was sworn in at noon.

"I'm going skiing," the man said.

Shortly after he left, Mr Paul and Ms Donna Merrill stationed themselves on the sidewalk in front of the plaza with an American flag and three homemade signs, including ones reading "We love you President Trump" and "Jesus is refuge".

"We're losing our freedoms as we speak," Mr Paul Merrill said, adding, "People are losing hope."

In Lansing, Michigan, four people stood vigil outside the state Capitol as Mr Biden gave his inaugural address.

"There are a lot of questions left unanswered, and I wish there was more transparency," said Mr Don Atkinson, 50, who owns a carpentry business in Clinton Township.

Mr Atkinson, who said he was an Air Force veteran who served in the Iraq War, was dressed in military fatigues, carried a semi-automatic rifle and wore a Roman numeral III patch of the Three Percenters, an anti-government group.

"I hope both sides could agree on a winner and a loser and so we won't be so divided," he said. "Hopefully we can get through this."

In Tallahassee, Florida, a few peaceful protesters arrived at the state Capitol in support of former president Donald Trump. One held up a sign that read "Stop Election Fraud". Another wore a Make America Great Again hat and a Mr Trump mask, and carried a sign saying "Thank you President Trump! The World Needed You!" Another sign read "Trump Won!"

The gathering at the state Capitol in Atlanta was also small and pointed. "We're here to stand up for our rights," said Ms Rhonda Beach, one of the protesters. "The election was stolen. It's not fair."

Ms Beach, 50, and her husband, Anthony, drove an hour from Monticello, Georgia, to rally with their niece. They carried signs that said "We love our country" on one side and "We hate our government" on the other.

Although their niece, Ms Elizabeth Webb, 42, said, "I love Trump, and I'm behind him," she acknowledged that he had contributed to ideological division in the country.

She added that she thought Mr Biden and the Democrats were to blame for the Jan 6 attack on the US Capitol. "We don't tear stuff up," she said of Republicans. "That's not how we act."

One of the few other demonstrators, a 46-year-old construction worker who identified himself only as Patrick, showed up armed with both a bow and arrow and a sword.

"It's just a show of force, like they're doing," he said, pointing to the police and National Guard troops ringing the building. "I ain't come here to start no trouble."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.