(Reuters) Black-clad activists protesting U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration smashed store and car windows in Washington on Friday and fought with police in riot gear who responded with pepper spray and stun grenades.
About 500 people, some wearing masks and kerchiefs over their faces, marched through the city’s downtown, breaking the windows of a Bank of America branch, a McDonald’s outlet and a Starbucks shop, all symbols of the American capitalist system.
The crowd, which carried at least one sign that read “Make Racists Afraid Again, also vandalized several cars and hurled trash cans and newspaper vending boxes into the streets before being largely dispersed by police.
About 900,000 people were expected to pack the grassy National Mall facing the Capitol, where Trump will be sworn in at midday (1700 GMT), as well as the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House and nearby areas.
“The message I want to send is that Trump does not represent this country. He represents the corporate interests,” said Jessica Reznicek, a 35-year-old Catholic aid worker from Des Moines, Iowa, who participated in a peaceful march.
Not far from the White House, protesters scuffled with police, at one point throwing aluminum chairs at an outdoor café. A motorcyclist in town to celebrate Trump’s inauguration was struck in the face when he tried to intervene.
“I know, law and order and all that. We need more order. This ain’t right,” Bob Hrifko, with a bleeding cut under his eye, told Reuters. Hrifko said he was part of the “Bikers for Trump” group that was holding an inauguration rally.
Earlier, liberal activists with a separate group called Disrupt J20 intermittently blocked multiple security checkpoints leading to the largest public viewing area for the ceremony. Several were led away by police.
Disrupt J20 protest organizer Alli McCracken, 28, of Washington, said the group was voicing its displeasure over Trump’s controversial comments about women, illegal immigrants and Muslims.
“We have a lot of people of diverse backgrounds who are against U.S. imperialism and we feel Trump will continue that legacy,” McCracken said on a gray morning with light rain.
Trump supporters flooded into the capital, many sporting shirts and hats bearing his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
‘DOING HIS PART’
Carl Beams, 36, from Howell, New Jersey, stood in line with thousands of other supporters of the New York businessman-turned-politician waiting to enter the National Mall to view the inauguration.
“This is a great moment in history. I wanted to be able to say I was here firsthand,” said Beams, who runs a martial-arts school. He said Trump could be a unifying force for the country. “I think he’s sending the right message and doing his part to make that happen.”
While Washington was the focal point of the anti-Trump protests, there were sympathy rallies around the nation and world.
Activists in London hung a banner reading “Build bridges not walls” on the city’s iconic Tower Bridge, a reference to Trump’s signature campaign promise of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.
By far the largest protest is expected to be Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, which some 200,000 people from around the country are expected to attend.
The U.S. Secret Service, Washington police and other law enforcement agencies planned to have about 28,000 officers in place to secure a roughly three-square-mile (almost eight-square-kilometre) area of downtown Washington
Security officials aimed to keep the Trump supporters and opponents separate, using similar tactics employed during last year’s Republican and Democratic national political conventions.
“If you come down to the event, you are going to see some people who have views who are different than yours,” said the city’s interim police chief, Peter Newsham. “But one thing we can agree on in Washington is that we can agree to disagree.”
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson, Jonathan Landay and Phil Stewart; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)