WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s promise to disrupt Washington came to pass on Day 1 of his presidency Friday — fiery protests, clashes with police and a stridently nationalist speech that elicited cheers from a sea of red ballcap-clad admirers.
During the primary fight, one rival called him the “chaos candidate” — an apt description of his first hours in office which showcased the bitter politics of the country he now leads.
As Hillary Clinton, his vanquished election opponent, arrived on the National Mall, his supporters chanted, “Lock Her Up!” and booed. Others in the crowd urged people to pipe down: “That’s so rude,” said one. Added another, “At least she came.”
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer’s message of national unity was drowned out by jeers that reached a crescendo as he read a letter home from a soldier killed during the Civil War.
When he referred to equality of peoples, one middle-aged woman shouted out: “Spare us the lecture!”
Several blocks away, protesters smashed windows, set fire to a limousine and tossed projectiles; police responded with blasts of pepper spray and stun grenades. Two officers were injured. Scores were arrested.
A dozen more were arrested in San Francisco. American flags burned in protests in Montreal and Mexico City.
All the while on Capitol Hill, a most unconventional politician was becoming America’s 45th president.
Trump’s inaugural address was an echo of his stump speeches, bemoaning the ravages of globalization, forgotten workers and ineffectual political elites too taken by international interests to tackle workers’ challenges at home.
It was unapologetically nationalist.
He promised to protect working-class communities from what he called the “carnage” wrought by globalization. He extolled the power of protectionism from foreign goods. And he hinted at less foreign military aid and less foreign aid — full stop.
With some of his presidential predecessors sitting behind him, Trump complained about politicians helping defend and build other countries — all while America’s own military and infrastructure crumble.
“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first,” he said.
“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
He continued: “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
Finally, the billionaire who rose to political prominence by questioning Barack Obama’s origins and referring to illegal Mexican migrants as rapists and drug dealers insisted on the need to address the country’s racial divisions.
That statement came exactly one sentence after he’d uttered a phrase Obama avoided during his eight years in office, for fear of inflaming racial tensions. Trump promised: “(We will) unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.”
Chants of “U.S.A.!” echoed throughout the National Mall. One person shouted, “New day, baby!” Occasional shouting matches broke out — after all, in the city beyond that Mall party, 96 per cent of Washington residents voted against Trump.
While the crowd booed Clinton, it was far gentler on the outgoing president: Obama received polite applause as he arrived at the Capitol, and his wife Michelle received an enthusiastic ovation surpassed only by the cheers for Trump himself.
A few blocks away, hundreds gathered at the Canadian embassy to watch the festivities from the rooftop. One question lingering over that gathering was how Trump’s protectionist vision might affect the northern neighbour.
He has promised a tough renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But he’s rarely mentioned Canada, let alone criticized it. Some supporters interviewed Friday said they expected Canada to escape the brunt of Trump’s trade offensives.
One woman from Kentucky said Canada wrestles with similar challenges to the U.S., like manufacturing jobs lost to lower-wage countries.
“We’re like family,” said Esther Dunlavy of Kentucky, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap over a white rain poncho.
She said she used to be a truck driver and often visited Canada, and hopes Trump’s policies leave trade flows intact. What she wants from Trump is more coal jobs in her state. When Trump says it’s still possible to bring these jobs back, despite a new glut of cheaper, cleaner natural gas, she believes him.
When asked what she hopes for most, the first thing she mentions is a wall on the southern border. Dunlavy said she’s fine with immigration, in general. Just not of the illegal variety. It’s time for America to take charge of its borders, she said.
“I want control,” she said.
— With files from The Associated Press