USA Politics First Look

Who’s showing up to protest in Washington this weekend?

Women are taking the lead on protests. But the inauguration weekend could draw some unexpected faces.

Anti-Trump demonstrators organized by RefuseFascism.org march through the streets of Washington, D.C. on Jan. 18, 2017.
James Lawler Duggan/Reuters
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City authorities in Washington, D.C., are girding themselves for a deluge of visitors in town Friday for the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump as well as for weekend demonstrations that will attract an unusually large and diverse coalition of protestors.   

Official estimates of turnout for the inauguration itself, which will include the swearing-in on the Capitol steps and a parade to the White House, range around 800,000 to 900,000 people. That’s slightly under the million supporters who turned up for the second inauguration of President Obama, and well below the 2 million who came to celebrate his first in 2008.

Turnout among protestors is harder for authorities to gauge. But estimates by organizers of distinct marches suggest that hundreds of thousands of demonstrators will probably converge on the nation’s capital. And the deluge of people may keep some of the attention around the inauguration on the opposition to Mr. Trump’s policy agenda during a weekend normally reserved for breezy pageantry.

The biggest protest planned for the weekend will be the Women’s March on Saturday, which organizers say will draw a quarter million people, most of them women. Many of them, reported USA Today in an article about a survey on gender by nonpartisan research firm PerryUndem, are first-time activists galvanized by the election of Trump.

“The single biggest contributor to this peaking civic participation is the president-elect’s comments and past behavior toward women, including bragging about assault, according to the survey. It ranks negative feelings about his actions as more predictive of getting politically involved than ideology, age, gender, race, education and geography,” USA Today reported. 

“That’s a pretty big finding and pretty much explains how the women’s march organically arose and is happening now,” Tresa Undem, lead pollster and agency partner, told the newspaper.

The president-elect’s derisive comments about Muslims and immigrants and plans on immigration, health care, income inequality, and foreign policy are drawing protestors as well, including from among the Women’s Marchers.

The ANSWER Coalition, an anti-war group, plans to demonstrate at two locations along Pennsylvania Avenue, while an offshoot of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement known as Occupy Inauguration plans to meet at a park just north of the White House where Green Party leader Jill Stein is scheduled to speak. And a coalition of groups called Disrupt J20 says it will try to shut down inauguration security checkpoints with protests and block access to related festivities on the National Mall, in addition to marching about a mile and a half through the capital.

Pro-marijuana groups will also protest Trump’s nominee to head the Justice Department, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama, a vocal opponent of liberal laws on pot. One group plans to distribute 4,200 joints at the inauguration in hopes of a sparking mass light-up (public consumption of pot is illegal in the capital, although possession of joint-sized amounts is not).

Law-enforcement authorities will try to keep protestors and Trump supporters separated, as they did during campaign conventions. Washington police say they expect to be able to process potential arrestees quickly in the event of a “mass arrest,” according to the Associated Press.

Sprinkled in among Women’s Marchers, whose platform is pro-choice, are likely to be a few hundred pro-life women, reported the Atlantic. Some of them plan to protest the influence of the “abortion industry” in the women’s-rights movement, while others are joining out of solidarity. And it comes as the pro-life movement itself is diversifying to encompass young activists who describe themselves, for example, as feminists and atheists.

“Many pro-life women felt just as outraged as pro-choice women about Donald Trump’s conduct and comments, including the revelation that he once bragged about groping women without their permission,” wrote the magazine’s Emma Green.

“Intersectional feminism is the future of feminism and of this movement,” Bob Bland, a co-chair of the March, told the magazine. “We must not just talk about feminism as one issue, like access to reproductive care.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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