Washington DC is America’s power base. From Congress to the White House, the Supreme Court to K Street, influence and the authoritative voice dominates.
The transition of power from one American President to another is a special moment to witness, and I was fortunate to be in Washington for the inauguration this past weekend. We are not used to this level of pageantry for politicians in the UK, with pomp reserved purely for state occasions.
Travelling into Washington on the Metro, the trains were sparsely occupied, with only a few Trump supporters making their way to the National Mall. The mood seemed to match the predictions that turnout would be low. Vendors lined the streets to sell Trump hats, pin badges, flags and tee shirts, as well as an array of anti Hillary merchandise.
Reaching the security checkpoint, it was clear that many Trump supporters had made their way into town in the early hours. Lines of people filled entire blocks, and with protestors blocking checkpoints, security struggled to check everyone before the ceremony began.
Trump fans had travelled from coast to coast to see their new leader take the oath of office. Their shouts of ‘USA, USA’ battled with anti-Trump messages, and as tempers flared, both sides openly argued with each other. The dialogue was sexist, racist and misogynistic. Small pockets of the crowd were professional protestors, taking to the streets to graffiti buildings and burn cars in the name of anger. Whilst it wasn’t clear what they were protesting against, it is clear that there is a feeling of discontent and an uncertainty as to what will happen next in America.
The mood in Washington was not one of jubilation, with even the inaugural parade doing little to lift patriotic spirits. President Trump’s promise of transferring power to the people was fiercely on show the next day, with thousands of women taking to Washington’s streets to fight for equality.
In sharp contrast to the day before, the Metro was packed with women from across America. The never-ending flow of people with pink hats streamed towards the National Mall, the signs bolder and better than the last. Every space was filled, and a group of us waited for two hours before we could move. Event organizers were unable to stick to the original march route because there were so many attendees, and around 2pm, the crowd began their journey towards the White House.
500,000 people were part of the Women’s March on Washington, more than the Civil Rights March of 1963 and those against the Iraq War in 2003. It was history in the making, and the strongest call to arms that women and civil liberties won’t be ignored.
Joy and disappointment are a part of all political transformation. People on both sides feel empowered by Trump’s victory, but for very different reasons. This was never more evident in the space of 24 hours, where the best and the worst of patriotism was on show.
Much like Brexit, Trump’s election has created immense change. It’s up to us all to play a part in the next chapter.
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