Redding Writer Risks Row with Radicals at Washington, D.C. Inaugural Protest

At 10 a.m. on Fri., Jan. 20, I stood wary among monuments just outside Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Surrounding me were members of a growing and surly crowd. Many of these people carried signs, all pretty rude, some outright profane with many four-letter words that I’ll not print here. Most of of this group was dressed in dark colors, including someone actually robed and hooded as the Grim Reaper, who stood silhouetted against a bright red communist flag.

Loud shouts burst from a loudspeaker, leading the crowd in raucous, f-bomb-peppered anti-Trump chants.

That was just about when I began to wonder how good an idea it was to agree to meet my activist niece in Washington, D.C., to march in protest of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

And then – I swear this is not fake – about 200 of these people turned to face me. They began to move toward me. I figured out later they were simply following directions from the loudspeaker to begin a march on the White House, and I just happened to be standing in their path. But I didn’t know that then, so I did what any startled, red-blooded, white, aging American male would do. I reached for my holster.

Drawing my phone, I saw that my niece had sent a text: Where are you? As the chanting horde pushed past me, I fumbled a reply: I’m standing in a stream of screaming socialists. She came back: Hahaha They are probably the Democratic Socialists of America group. I thought, God, I hope not, as Mr. Death passed by, his crimson banner billowing in the chill breeze.

The departure of that group revealed a sprinkling of what appeared to be kinder, gentler protesters. By the time my niece joined me, hundreds more had gathered on the grounds around and beyond the monuments. By the time we moved into the street, about noon, there had to be a thousand of us.

For the next two hours, we marched from Union Station to McPherson Square, beginning on Massachusetts Avenue, breaking east onto I Street, to 15th Avenue, a total distance of 1.5 miles, in light, intermittent rain. As far as I know, no one broke anything. It was more like a parade than a demonstration, with waves and smiles coming from citizens on the sidewalks and police in the streets.

Here are a couple dozen photos from this march and that day in Washington.

Mostly socialists gather for a pep talk before their march on the White House. That stone dude seems to have a good seat for viewing the inaugural ceremony.

Mostly socialists gather for a pep talk before their march on the White House. That stone dude seems to have a good seat for viewing the inaugural ceremony.

Looks like someone suggested people write their greatest grievance with Trump on this banner, which is emblazoned with an overarching expletive pertinent to them all.

Looks like someone suggested people write their greatest grievance with Trump on this banner, which is emblazoned with an overarching expletive pertinent to them all.

They. came. right. at. me.

They. came. right. at. me.

Leaving behind a mellower breed of protester.

Leaving behind a mellower breed of protester.

The social justice crowd gathers at Union Station. Protesters commemorate the event with selfies, nearly all of which are achieved without any thumbs getting in the way.

The social justice crowd gathers at Union Station. Protesters commemorate the event with selfies, nearly all of which are achieved without any thumbs getting in the way.

The crowd begins its march down Massachusetts Avenue. We filled the southeastbound lanes, transforming the avenue into a one-way southwestbound thoroughfare until the last marchers turned due east on I Street, which we then filled curb to curb.

The crowd begins its march down Massachusetts Avenue. We filled the south-east-bound lanes, transforming the avenue into a one-way south-west-bound thoroughfare until the last marchers turned due east on I Street, which we then filled curb to curb.

Yes, a marching band and a woman on stilts. She was really dancing to the music. Keep an eye on those three flags as they fade farther and farther into the background. They mark where we started.

Yes, a marching band and a woman on stilts. She was really dancing to the music. Keep an eye on those three flags as they fade farther and farther into the background. They mark where we started.

A sign provided by the establishment advises marchers to look out for themselves. This wasn't necessary. The police blocked off every intersection as we reached it, where drivers sat and waited for the long crossing.

A sign provided by the establishment advises marchers to look out for themselves. This wasn’t necessary. The police blocked off every intersection as we reached it, where drivers sat and waited for the long crossing.

The woman in the right foreground is a chant leader, equipped with a bullhorn. This march was well-organized, with chant leaders positioned in the crowd to lead the same chant among protesters blocks apart. On that sheet of paper are the names of the chants and the times to start them.

The woman in the right foreground is a chant leader, equipped with a bullhorn. This march was well-organized, with chant leaders positioned in the crowd to lead the same chant among protesters blocks apart. On that sheet of paper are the names of the chants and the times to start them.

At times it was like walking through an urban canyon, with people behind office windows waving, or residents of townhouses out on their balconies cheering. I did spot a couple of detractors along the way, but most of the time it was smiles and waves and cameras.

At times it was like walking through an urban canyon, with people behind office windows waving, or residents of townhouses out on their balconies cheering. I did spot a couple of detractors along the way, but most of the time it was smiles and waves and cameras.

That NO! sign brings up a good point. We marched not in anger over rights we lost. We marched to warn a potential taker of rights he'd better think twice.

That NO! sign brings up a good point. We marched not in anger over rights we lost. We marched to warn a potential taker of rights he’d better think twice.

This march is about equality, between colors, genders, orientation. It's the physical embodiment of the guiding philosophy that no one is better than anyone el – Holy shit! Is that Kirsten Dunst?

This march was about equality, between colors, genders and sexual orientation. It’s the physical embodiment of the guiding philosophy that no one is better than anyone el – Holy shit! Is that Kirsten Dunst?

Tapping into national angst, an inflatable The Scream. Another innovation, new to me a that time, was that pink knit cap with kitten ears. Guys with armloads of them were wandering the crowd shouting, “Pussy hats! Get your pussy hats here!”

Tapping into national angst, an inflatable image of The Scream. Another innovation, new to me at that time, was that pink knit cap with kitten ears. Guys with armloads of them were wandering the crowd shouting, “Pussy hats! Get your pussy hats here!”

That masked man is a solemn but harmless drummer. He kept a good beat going behind the chants, especially, “THIS is what democracy looks like,” which is hard to for me to say without breaking into dance. You try it.

That masked man is a solemn but harmless drummer. He kept a good beat going behind the chants, especially, “THIS is what democracy looks like,” which is hard to for me to say without breaking into dance. You try it.

At some intersections, people would flow in from the sides, adding to our numbers. The nearly impossible task of counting all the people in our crowd from within our crowd became impossible.

At some intersections, people would flow in from the sides, adding to our numbers. The nearly impossible task of counting all the people in our crowd from within our crowd became impossible.

Case in point, count how many shoulders span the width of the I Street, which we filled curb to curb with few gaps. Then multiply that by how many people can queue closely in a line the length of a city block. Then multiply that by the total number of city blocks our march stretched, which no can see.

Case in point, count how many shoulders span the width of the I Street, which we filled curb to curb with few gaps. Then multiply that by how many people can queue closely in a line the length of a city block. Then multiply that by the total number of city blocks our march stretched, which no one can see.

How are workers going to arise without the capitalist Starbucks?

How are workers going to arise without the capitalist Starbucks?

Now here's a dedicated cameraman. The jacket is piled on top to keep light rain off sensitive, looks-like expensive equipment. Actually, the rain never came down hard enough to get anyone wet, and many people had their Canons and Nikons out the duration of the march.

Now here’s a dedicated cameraman. The jacket is piled on top to keep light rain off sensitive, looks-like-expensive equipment. Actually, the rain never came down hard enough to get anyone wet, and many people had their Canons and Nikons out the duration of the march.

The National Guard was out if needed, but in the case of our peaceful demonstration, not needed. They watched us without much expression. The police, our guardians at the intersections, would sometimes smile and return waves.

The National Guard was out if needed, but in the case of our peaceful demonstration, not needed. They watched us without much expression. The police, our guardians at the intersections, would sometimes smile and return waves.

See that sign, [Don't] Block the Box? The box is the painted square defined by the four crosswalks. Apparently, D.C.ers don't like late left turners or other drivers who get themselves stranded in the intersection. But us protesters? We blocked that box good.

See that sign, [Don’t] Block the Box? The box is the painted square defined by the four crosswalks. Apparently, D.C.ers don’t like late left turners or other drivers who get themselves stranded in the intersection. But us protesters? We blocked that box good.

At McPherson Square, end of the march, this guy, obviously an organizer with his bullhorn and route map, shows off three alpacas. And wore a live dove on his shoulder.

At McPherson Square, end of the march, this guy, obviously an organizer with his bullhorn and route map, shows off three alpacas, and a live dove on his shoulder.

And a last look at the alpacas who, interestingly enough, did get wet in the light rain.

And a last look at the alpacas who, interestingly enough, did get wet in the light rain.

Richard DuPertuis
Richard DuPertuis has written in Redding for a few years now. During his 12 years in Dunsmuir, his stories and photographs appeared in Siskiyou and Shasta County newspapers. He can be reached on Facebook.
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20 Responses

  1. cheyenne says:

    This article was better to read with my morning coffee than anything else on Mass Media.  Well written and great photos.

  2. Frank Treadway says:

    Great photos and comment !  Just a show of how a few million folks can turn the tide. Here in Shasta County we have formed at least 4 ongoing action groups. Groups that will not sit still in this era of backward thinking.  One group will gather every Thursday, 11:45am at Rep. LaMalfa’s office, 2885 Churn Creek Rd. SteC, ReddingCA for a ‘Lunch With LaMalfa’ and peacefully hand in letters of concern to the staff.  You’ll need to google the location of the office as it ‘s one of the most hidden secrets in all of Shasta County. BTW, what was the purpose of the Alpacas at the march ?

  3. A. Jacoby says:

    THANK YOU FOR THE PHOTOS. . . . they put a real face on the events that were fueled by real people. NOT the billions spent by the oligarchy in other parts of the city.

  4. A. Jacoby says:

    Thank you, Frank . . . . I did Google that address. You are so right. It’s like a hidden enclave. Not to infer that the honorable  Mr. LMalfa is hiding from anything . . . I’m sure that it is just that the site is less expensive real estate. . . . or not.

  5. T J Gold says:

    Thank you for a real persons experience with the folks who are not a part of the delusional followers.
    FOX News scares me…I am afraid when I hear 45 aka Pres Trump only watches…FOX

  6. Kath Surbaugh says:

    Thanks for sharing your photos and impressions!  Great, helpful piece of reportage!  Rah!!

  7. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Great pictures and superb article Richard.  I am in awe that so many people could assemble peacefully!  Thank you so much.

  8. Helen cartwright says:

    Wow, that was interesting!  99% of the coverage had been about the massive protests on Saturday, oh, and the lack luster inauguration on Friday. Yours is an account of the first protest – different vibe but fascinating and under reported.

  9. K. Beck says:

    Protests at JFK, too:  Judge Blocks Trump Order on Refugees Amid Chaos and Outcry Worldwide

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-prompting-legal-challenges-to-trumps-immigration-order.html

    Maybe Richard needs to be our traveling reporter?

  10. Mark Ostrom says:

    GREAT Article and Good Act Richard! You are da MAN!~

  11. Sandi says:

    Well written. It’s nice to see some positive reports.

  12. Debra Miller says:

    Thanks for the insights.  Maybe you should now go to the airports and report what is happening today!  Good Work Richard.

     

  13. Steve Murray says:

    As an alpaca breeder here in Shasta Co. for the last 20 years, I can tell you why someone brought one to the protest. These are calm, peaceful, non-violent, easy going animals and perhaps the owner thought that would rub off on the crowd a little.?  Anyway, the big one was a llama.

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