With just hours left leading up to the 58th Presidential Inauguration, protesters carrying large signs and collectively chanting politically charged messages opposing the installation of President Donald Trump lined the streets of downtown Washington, D.C.
Hundreds of demonstrators with linked arms stood directly in front of the entrance where designated ticket holders were to be admitted. The protesters attempted to stop attendees from entering the ceremony. Black, white and brown, queer and straight, young and old, male and female stood firm in opposition.
Voices of the protesters sounded throughout, chanting, “Say it loud, say it clear, illegals are welcome here.”
One of those voices came from Michael Baca, 24, who traveled from Las Vegas to demonstrate against a president-elect he called “not qualified” to serve in office, citing Trump’s inexperience and widely criticized campaign messages.
Baca, a former Marine originally from Colorado, was one of nine electors chosen to represent Colorado in the Electoral College vote that took place in mid-December and officially made Trump the president-elect. Though Colorado was a state Hillary Clinton won in the General Election, Baca decided to vote for a more moderate Republican – despite being a registered Democrat – in an attempt to stop Trump from reaching the White House.
“You need to be competent to be able to – fit to – serve this country,” he said. “I see Donald Trump as a severe threat.”
Baca said he became a “Hamilton elector” or a “faithless elector” that chose not to vote for Trump. The Hamilton electors planned to impede a Trump presidency by collectively voting for the same moderate Republican candidate.
Though Baca said he knew Trump’s swearing-in ceremony was inevitable, he said the message behind the protests, which he called “a show of peaceful force,” was powerful in opposing Trump’s unsavory rhetoric.
“He started his message with hate. I’m going to start my message with love and I think, in the end, this country will prevail,” Baca said.
Those strategically positioned to stop the influx of supporters entering the National Mall were not only protesting the general idea of a Trump presidency and what it would entail, but specific parts of his policy positions. Environmentalists were among the larger groups of protesters at the ceremony.
David Turnbull, 34, a full-time activist with a focus on climate change policy, was one of the vocal protesters engaged in the movement.
“I wanted to be with my community to show that from day one, we’re going to resist Trump’s regime,” he said. “He’s a climate denier, he’s a misogynist, he’s a racist, and we are not going to let that stand in our country.”
Surrounded by federal officials and observers from the National Lawyers Guild, an association of lawyers who specialize in defending human rights cases, protesters shouted pro-environment messages such as, “You can’t drink oil. Keep it in the soil.”
According to Turnbull, the type of resistance displayed against the Trump administration before the inauguration is what he expects to last throughout Trump’s term.
He was particularly impressed and encouraged by “the amount of people who I know that are not activists, that have not been civically involved in the ways that I have and are saying, ‘What can I do? How can I get involved?’”
Protesters were not the only ones who had words to spew during the hours before “president-elect” became “president.” In between the thousands opposing the administration were thousands supporting it and its leader.
Joe Smith, 69, of Tampa, Florida, donned a “Make America Great Again” cowboy hat and tie-dye shirt with “Trump” written across the chest. Smith got into several verbal exchanges with those going against the candidate he supported since the primaries.
According to Smith, who last voted for a Democrat in 1976, those protesting were doing so for attention.
“What’s their point? To show us how stupid they are? To show us how much time they have to kill? What’s their point?” he said, referring to those protesting in front of an entrance meant for designated ticket holders. “These people have no point. Their point is, ‘Make me feel more important, I want to matter.’”
Smith, said he traveled to D.C. because he had received an invitation from Trump, a man, he said, who will bring jobs back to the United States and care about the country, unlike Democrats.
“Democrats don’t care about America. They’ve got their own little issues they care about. They care about gay marriage,” he said. “They care about spreading Islam.”
Tricie Ledaskis, a 15-year-old who participated in the protests barring attendees from entering, held a rainbow flag while she exchanged words with Smith. Ledaskis said Smith “attacked” her for her sexual preference.
“As a member of the LGBT community, him saying that people like me will be hung under Donald Trump’s law … it’s not something I deal with,” she said. “That type of anger, hatred, and violence is just … I’ve never been treated like that because of who I want to spend my life with.”
Ledaskis, who was also accompanied by her younger sister Katie, 13, said that if she and her generation had been old enough to vote during the election, Trump would not have been elected president.
“There’s too much hatred. We don’t need any more hatred,” she said.
Isabella Cueto contributed to reporting.