The people gathered in nature’s gloom, squinting through a spitting rain, sizing up the man and his moment, in a city disinclined to welcome either.
On the National Mall, the president’s buoyant supporters clustered in their hats — roving masses of red — fitting comfortably where two Obama inaugurations had once overwhelmed the grounds.
“Trump! Trump! Trump!” they shouted in waves, reveling in the president’s sporadic fist pumps.
So many others had already skipped town — lifelong residents, departing government employees, Democratic members of Congress — leaving behind pockets of eerie quiet.
Others stayed, or arrived, to stand on a different side of history, trudging toward a celebration they were powerless to stop but desperate to at least interrupt.
“This is our right to stand here,” said Mica Reel, 21, who took part in an attempted midmorning human blockade near an entrance to President Trump’s ceremony.
Mr Trump was sworn in around noon on Friday. The resistance, which sometimes turned violent, was already well underway.
Perhaps some strange alchemy was inevitable, crackling throughout this day of contradictions: an underwhelming crowd for a showman president; a city that rejected him — Mr Trump received about 4 percent of Washington’s vote — hosting his celebration; a peaceful transfer of power pierced, at least occasionally, by simmering clashes in the streets.
Of course, many thousands were eager to greet the new day, grafting their celebration onto the city from the American heartland — and bidding good riddance to a Washington era they had detested from afar.
But across the city — the nexus of a weekend of national demonstrations cresting with a women’s march on Saturday — a peculiar sensation took immediate hold, visiting every corner of the capital on its biggest day.
It wafted from the mall, where raindrops seemed to fall just as Mr Trump began his address.
And it slithered downtown, near the parade route, a province of protesters in protective goggles and police officers in riot gear, of hurled objects and bursts of pepper spray. At least a few windows were shattered at a bank and a cafe, where structures were tagged with an anarchist “A.” Elsewhere, a vehicle and a handful of garbage cans were set aflame.
— Vox (@voxdotcom) January 20, 2017
By early evening, the Metropolitan Police Department said, more than 200 arrests had been made in connection with protests. These included many at a confrontation, a few blocks from where Mr Trump passed on the parade route, that prompted the police to use pepper spray and rubber “sting balls” against dozens of protesters, some of whom had thrown rocks and bricks.
More often, demonstrations were peaceful, pocked with occasionally soggy signage: “Reject, Resist”; “Putin’s Orange Puppet”; “Rage, Rage Against the Dying of Our Rights.”
Other appraisals were more charitable, particularly among the area’s entrepreneurial set.
Jonas Williams, 43, of Greensboro, North Carolina, made a temporary office of his Silver Line train, hawking Trump buttons, Trump hats, Trump bumper stickers. “We got bobbleheads!” he cried.
Though Mr Williams had sold more than $300 worth of gear since boarding, he said, the money was “secondary” to supporting a man he admired.
“I like what other people don’t like — his outspokenness,” said Mr Williams, who is African-American. “Give it to me straight.”
Next to the Capitol South Metro station, a group of 52 middle-schoolers, bused in from Massachusetts, wore matching blue hats and held red pom-poms.
“We have a pretty split group of supporters and non-supporters,” said Anna Baboval, a seventh-grade geography teacher. “But they’re all pretty excited to experience history.”
A teenager approached Ms Baboval. “Would it be bad if I bought a pin with a swear on it?” he asked.
“Please don’t do that,” she said.
Other protest literature was more subtle. Kenneth Harringer, a 54-year old tax preparer from Silver Spring, Maryland, held a sign in Russian, in a nod to the country’s interference in the election. Its message: “Not My President.”
“Google Translate,” he said.
At times, there was cautious optimism among Trump skeptics. Or something like it.
“Hopefully,” said Dan MacNeil, from Beverly, Massachusetts, “it will be closer to a Ronald Reagan thing than a Mussolini thing.”
Much of the day, though, was defined by its absences, from the dozens of House Democrats who boycotted the inauguration to the Democratic operatives who repaired to a Florida golf resort to plot an opposition strategy.
One telling statistic came from underground. Metro ridership as of 11 a.m. was 193,000 trips, according to Washington’s transit agency. For President Obama’s inaugurations, total trips by that hour totaled 513,000 and 317,000.
Many from the metropolitan area had deserted the nation’s capital for tropical beaches or woodland cabins without internet access, the better to distract themselves from the swearing-in.
Jennifer Palmieri, a former Obama administration official who served as communications director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, traveled to New Orleans for the weekend.
“I’m not allowing the swearing-in of Trump to drive me out of my own country,” she said, “but headed somewhere that is not likely to care much about politics.”
Parade route from Capital to WH. Entire stands empty. Crowd thin. pic.twitter.com/7AcpJkBO8O
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) January 20, 2017
For the Democratic organizers who stayed behind, Mr Trump’s inauguration presented a moment to ratchet up public protest and dissent against his presidency, a show of resistance amid the pageantry.
“This is about saying to the top leadership of this country, ‘We are watching you,’” said Lauren Footman, 25, a community organizer who staged an afternoon rally at the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. “We are ready for the next four years.”
On the campus of George Washington University, a group of activists on Friday convened an eight-hour “resistance-training workshop” designed to teach left-leaning millennials techniques to thwart Mr Trump, including lobbying Congress, making media appearances or running for office.
And even among some Democratic lawmakers who attended the inauguration, a silent challenge to Mr Trump was pinned to their lapels. “#ProtectOurCare,” the blue buttons read, in a plea to spare Mr Obama’s signature health care law.
Mr Trump’s inauguration is not the first to draw protesters from around the country and opposition from ideological foes, or even to prompt some lawmakers of the opposing party to stay away. But the level of organized resistance to his presidency — by elected leaders and activists, lawyers and service workers — is striking.
Ron Klain, who led Al Gore’s legal battle after the 2000 contest, said that he recalled Mr Bush’s inauguration as “depressing,” but that it did not yield the kind of opposition efforts Mr Trump’s did.
“I was not hosting protesters on Inauguration Day 2001,” said Mr Klain, who is holding a dinner on Saturday for 25 young people who plan to participate in the women’s march and other demonstrations this weekend.
Already, patience has been tested.
By 9 a.m. on Friday, about 150 protesters had gathered in McPherson Square, carrying signs and nodding to the beat of two men drumming on buckets.
A local walked his small dog through the plaza. Another man stood near the back of the crowd, nibbling on a sandwich.
“In the name of humanity,” the group chanted, in a call-and-response, “we refuse to accept a fascist America.”
“Impeach Him Already!” one sign read.
Three hours later, Mr Trump raised his right hand.
– The New York Times