Rarely do I find myself reveling in the opportunity to wake up at 4:00 a.m.. Especially when the weather outside is gloomy and Washington D.C.’s streets are already bustling with thousands of people.
January 20, 2017 was an exception. During the last several months, millions of Americans have begrudgingly accepted that Donald Trump won the presidential election—maybe with support from Russia. Stock markets reacted positively to his victory, but political uncertainty has invariably lead to record-low approval ratings for Trump. Yet, amidst mixed emotions and imminent protests, I attended the 58th presidential inauguration alongside 800,000 other citizens.
D.C. is hardly known for its public transportation, but trains began running at 5:00 a.m. in anticipation of numerous visitors. We boarded the metro around this time and made our way from the northwest part of the city to downtown. While the trains were somewhat full, Donald Trump’s estimates were much higher than reality. We arrived at our designated checkpoint around 5:30 a.m., which felt like a scene straight out of an apocalypse movie. Prior to inauguration day, I hadn’t thought about the astonishing amount of security required for the event. Everywhere I looked, policemen were heavily armed and tour buses full of additional officers were still arriving.
When we reached the gate it was still dark outside and the officers were pacing nervously. Ahead of us stood an impressive combination of TSA and Secret Service officers, alongside dozens of x-ray machines. While we waited for the gates to open, one of my friends remarked, “just imagine how much this costs.” As it turns out, security for this year’s inauguration day cost $200 million, which is nearly $40 million more than president Obama’s ceremony in 2009. The gates opened at 6:30 a.m. and the race for sub-par standing room began.
As hundreds dashed past security checkpoints towards the Capitol, a palpable excitement began to grow. While it wasn’t immediately apparent, the 20th of January wasn’t extraordinary because of the security or amount of people; indeed, Trump’s inauguration attracted less than 50% of the 2009 audience. Instead, this dark and gloomy day quickly became defined by its resemblance to a Trump rally.
As we patiently waited for 3 hours before any music was played, the crowd grew fervent. Chants such as “lock her up” and “Donald Trump, Donald Trump…” rippled across the crowd. Numerous people around us talked excitedly about Hillary Clinton’s loss as if they were reliving Nov. 8. When the inauguration finally commenced it was nearly 11:00 a.m. and the National Mall buzzed with energy. As Senator Chuck Schumer took the stage, the crowd suddenly channeled its pent-up aggression and unleashed it on the New Yorker as he spoke. At one point, Senator Schumer was forced to pause, as a deafening roar of boos erupted from the surrounding mass.
As a formality, Hillary Clinton decided to attend the inauguration, which was predictably a terrible choice. Whenever the camera panned on her the crowd shouted obscenities, which drew looks of disdain from Clinton. Indeed, this happened so frequently that the camera avoided filming her, which reduced the amount of intense booing. As the ceremony concluded, president Trump left the stage and a great herd departed from the National Mall. Protestors outside of the inauguration were suddenly confronted by thousands of Trump supporters, which produced angry clashes. As we made our way back to the metro, “USA, USA, USA” could be heard reverberating through the streets.
Although Donald Trump was able to attract thousands of his fondest supporters on inauguration day, Jan. 21 was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, my roommate and I decided to run our usual 6-mile route to the Washington Monument. Nearly 2 miles from the monument, we were forced to stop—the streets were so full that it was hard to even walk. Although officials had projected that 200,000 protesters would take part in the Women’s March, by 11:00 a.m. nearly 537,000 people had taken the metro downtown to march. By 1:00 p.m., there were nearly 1 million people protesting, a number that quickly outpaced the crowd that had attended the inauguration.
Likely a result of Donald Trump’s notorious foul language, hundreds of signs proudly displayed the word p—y to emphasize freedom of speech. Unlike the previous day’s protests, the Women’s March was largely peaceful in D.C. By the time 3:00 p.m. rolled around, the crowd reached its peak and we decided to make our way out of the city. In a brilliant show of defiance, millions of women and men across the country stood together, embracing the first day of the next four years.