WASHINGTON – Protesters who had promised to shut down the city for the inauguration were successful at several security checkpoints Friday morning, as they slowed crowds from entering onto the Mall and, in one spot, stopped them completely.
“Shut it down!” protesters shouted at the checkpoint at John Marshall Park. There, five black men stood at the front of the crowd, chained together, blocking the path.
Brought to D.C. from places across the country, the five men were protesting on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement. As they stood together, they shouted that by protesting, “all we have to lose is our chains.”
Just after 8:30 a.m., police began redirecting people to other entrances, though police officials said they have not officially shut down any checkpoints. An officer at the location said the size of the protest will determine whether the checkpoint remains blocked or if people will be allowed to enter again Friday.
AG confirmation: Marijuana advocates mobilizing in advance of Sessions confirmation hearing
‘Wouldn’t be our first priority’: Trump inauguration marijuana protest arrests unlikely
Planning ahead: What marijuana legalization backers plan on doing at Trump inauguration
National legalization: White House protest sparks up against U.S. marijuana law
Weed news and interviews: Get podcasts of The Cannabist Show.
Subscribe to our newsletter here.
Watch The Cannabist Show.
As protesters at the spot shouted “This is what democracy looks like,” a Trump supporter countered. He pointed to the other side of the fence and said, “This is what democracy looks like but I can’t get to it because of you!”
Michael Henning came from Dalton, Ohio, to see Trump sworn in and said he was concerned with how the police handled the situation.
“We drove 20 hours and now we can’t get in,” Henning said. “Everyone should have just brought guns and had it out, I’d be happy if they just dropped a bomb on them.”
At another moment, just before 10:30 a.m., a large group of black-clad protestors made their way south on 13th Street near K Street, throwing newspaper boxes and garbage cans into the street and setting them on fire. Some carried signs, including one that read: “No peaceful transition.” Police cleaned up behind them as they marched, and authorities used chemical spray in an attempt to disrupt the vandalism.
It is unclear how many protesters descended on the nation’s capital for the inauguration, but law enforcement officials were bracing for more than 60 demonstration groups, both in support of and against Trump. About two dozen groups have received permits for specific gathering spaces for Friday and Saturday, when the Women’s March will take over the streets. According to their permit requests, some of those groups Friday were anticipating as few as 20 participants; others were planning for tens of thousands.
Not all of the demonstrations on Friday will be anti-Trump. Among those groups that requested permits for space are two organizations that support him: Bikers for Trump and Let America Hear Us, Roar for Trump.
The latter was sharing Dupont Circle with a group that did not request a permit but set up there early Friday – DCMJ, which was formerly known as the D.C. Cannabis Campaign and was behind the successful effort to legalize marijuana in the District in 2015.
Not a joke: There is a stream of people coming to get free marijuana in Dupont. Organizers guess ~8,000 free joints. pic.twitter.com/m20g1sWhCD
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) January 20, 2017
The group, which started rolling joints this month, planned to hand out 4,200 before marching to the Mall. Once there, those who got through the security checkpoints – a problem because it is illegal to possess marijuana on federal land, which includes the Mall – planned to light up four minutes and 20 seconds into Trump’s speech.
A 40-year-old pot grower named Josh stood near Dupont Circle Friday morning, controlling the line, which stretched up Massachusetts Avenue. He said he had donated a half-pound of his own weed for the giveaway.
“I’d appreciate it if you don’t do any illegal here,” Josh told the crowd. “If you want to do something illegal, take it down the block.”
— Neal Augenstein (@AugensteinWTOP) January 20, 2017
Nikolas Schiller, co-founder of DCMJ, said the demonstration is not a protest of Trump but a signal of wanting to work with him on fully legalizing cannabis in all 50 states and the District.
“This is about demonstrating to Trump that he has the power to change the law and do what Obama was not able to do,” Schiller said. “We believe cannabis legalization will create jobs, it will increase tax revenue, and it will also help fix the broken criminal justice” system.
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) January 20, 2017
As for the bikers they will be sharing space with Friday, he said, “We hope some come on over and get a free joint.”
In the days leading up to the inauguration, protests started with one group shutting down K Street in downtown Washington and gay rights advocates holding a dance party near the temporary home of Vice President-elect Mike Pence in Chevy Chase, complete with biodegradable glitter and the hashtags #WeAreQueer #WeAreHere #WeWillDance.
Thursday night, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the National Press Club in downtown Washington, where the “DeploraBall” was being held. They shouted obscenities and insults such as “racist” and Nazi” at those attending the celebratory ball on the eve of Trump’s inauguration, and at one point someone threw an object that hit a counter protester in the head. Officers directed chemical spray at the crowd multiple times after protesters began throwing trash at Trump supporters who were leaving the building.
Many of the groups have planned non-violent demonstrations for Friday. But at least one has vowed to try to shut down the city.
That group, organized under activist collective Disrupt J20, plans to have different organizations gather at each of the dozen checkpoints that inauguration ticket holders will have to pass through. Each will speak to a different cause, organized under names that include: Future is Feminist, Movement for Black Lives, Standing Rock for Native Lives, Economic Justice and Communities under Attack.
A group of about 100 LBGT activist marched past McPherson Square about 7:30 a.m, some of them holding a banner that read: “Out of the Closet. Into the Streets.”
They then made their way to one of the security checkpoints that Trump supporters would have to pass through to view the inauguration, where they danced and sang along to Abba and Madonna and filled the wet pavement with blue and purple glitter. They blew whistles and oversized yellow plastic horns.
“We are here as a celebration of all the rights we have achieved as a movement and to stand up for ourselves,” said Mike mcvicker-weaver, 40, an HIV health care worker from Baltimore.
At a checkpoint neat 10th and E streets early Friday, a group of women tied themselves together with purple yarn and sat down, blocking people from passing.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho! Donald Trump has to go!” the group of about 100 mostly young protesters said. “End white supremacy!”
The protest continued until a large group of inauguration attendees – many dressed in suits and dress clothes – tried to push through the human barricade. People started falling to the ground and swearing until police officers helped create a lane for the attendees to pass through.
Disrupt J20 describes its plans online as “a series of massive direct actions that will shut down the Inauguration ceremonies and any related celebrations – the Inaugural parade, the Inaugural balls, you name it. We’re also planning to paralyze the city itself, using blockades and marches to stop traffic and even public transit.”
Lacy MacAuley, a spokeswoman for the group, said it has been working with other organizations to plan “permitted” and “unpermitted” actions.
“There will be people risking arrest,” she said earlier in the week. “In terms of what those protests will be, we’re not talking about that at this time.”
The group, which expects more than 30,000 participants, will also be gathering in the afternoon at McPherson Square, where they will have a stage and sound system. MacAuley said artists have been working to make statement pieces, including elaborate puppets and a large wall representing the one Trump has vowed to build along the border with Mexico.
Another organization, the ANSWER Coalition, plans to host a large gathering at the U.S. Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Ben Becker of ANSWER said that more than 45,000 people have indicated through social media an interest in joining the group’s protest near the U.S. Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue. The group, which stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, plans to have a 28-foot stage and large sound system that will showcase speakers and performers throughout the morning and afternoon.
“We’re considering it the counterinauguration,” Becker, 33, said. “The main message is that there is going to be a grass-roots movement of resistance to the Trump agenda from Day One of his presidency.”
The group has thousands of signs ready to hand out. Among them are: “Say no to racism,” “Stop the Trump Agenda” and “Inaugurate the Resistance.”
Becker said his hope for the day, regardless of how many people show up, is that they leave feeling confident in their ability to stand up, fight back and organize.
“It’s not a one-day event,” he said. “We’re calling it Day One of a larger resistance movement.”
The Washington Post’s Arelis Hernández, John Kelly, Taylor Hartz and Robert McCartney contributed to this report.