Trump supporters flock to Washington for inauguration

Members of the US military stand in front of the Trump International Hotel Pennsylvania Ave. during an inaugural parade rehearsal on Jan 15, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Members of the US military stand in front of the Trump International Hotel Pennsylvania Ave. during an inaugural parade rehearsal on Jan 15, 2017 in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Republican Linda Cools journeyed from Chicago to Washington to be a part of history: the upcoming inauguration of her favorite candidate Donald Trump to be the United States' 45th president.

"I'm very excited. It'll be wonderful to see a new transition, a peaceful transition that does not happen globally," the 50-year-old public relations writer told AFP as she shopped for Trump inauguration souvenirs just a stone's throw from the White House.

Trump fans are converging on the nation's capital ahead of Friday's swearing in, keen to bear witness as the political novice takes the reins of US government - and eager to see his legions of critics proven wrong.

As authorities fenced off parts of the inaugural parade route and viewing area, the weather was not obliging the city's visitors Tuesday as rain drenched the US Capitol grounds and Washington Mall, where some 800,000 people are expected to gather on Friday.

But several visitors were already soaking up the patriotic spectacle that accompanies the transfer of power every four years.

Reconciliation should be the first order of business when Trump delivers his inaugural address, Cools said, acknowledging the divisive campaign fight between Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

"I think it's more of a coming together than a coming apart," she nodded, calling for Trump to temper his rhetoric. "We'd like him to reel it in a little bit." It will be Cools' first inauguration, and she spent the day visiting the city's monuments including the Lincoln Memorial, where she admitted to turning emotional as she listened to a military band.

"It reminds you how important what we have here is," she said.

Vasi Gaua and her husband travelled from San Bernardino, California, for the inauguration, and despite the rain and frustrations with catching a city tour bus they remained optimistic about Friday's "historic moment".

"I was always a big fan (of Trump)", she said. "I like how he's forward with people, tells it like it is."

Gaua, 35, helps with her family's landscape business back home. But she and her husband were spending the week in Washington, thrilled that they snagged inauguration tickets through their congressman.

Gaua recognised the divisions exposed during the campaign, but suggested the coming days be for healing, not protests.

At least 50 US House Democrats have announced they will not attend the inauguration.

"I mean... he's your president, what are you going to do about it, if he's not your president?" she bristled. "You can always move."

Nick Allen, a remodelling business owner from Columbia, Missouri, who voted for Trump, said he and his family were in town for an FBI graduation ceremony, and stayed for the inauguration.

"The country was due for a change, while at the same time it should be an interesting presidency," Allen, 47, said cautiously.

"We're all wondering what it's going to be like" with an outsider at the helm, he said.

In other words, Trump is "a hot mess", Allen's wife interjected.

Republican skeptics have also arrived, hoping their new commander in chief can dial back his confrontational rhetoric, heal a divided nation and focus on leading the world's biggest economy.

"I'm trying to get on the bandwagon, but it's a challenge," admitted Peter Kelly of New York, as he took in the splendor of the American flag-draped lobby of the new Trump International Hotel blocks from the White House.

"I want to hear him give a speech of inclusiveness, and what America's importance in the world is, and not take an arrogant tone about it."

Outside the US Capitol, some Democratic visitors were refusing to let the election's outcome ruin their plans.

Angie Norton, who works in pharmaceuticals in northern California, joined her sister-in-law Eden Arnold, and Arnold's two children and mother for a major trip to Washington.

As Clinton supporters, instead of celebrating Trump's rise they are set to join protests against a man that Norton insists "instils hate".

"We came for Hillary Clinton's inauguration and this other guy was elected," Norton quipped.

Her family had been looking forward to seeing the first woman ascend to the Oval Office. Instead, they will witness the dawn of the Trump era.

"We did not want to cancel the trip," Norton insisted. "Everything was paid for."