Last weekend, protesters took to the streets of Washington D.C. for the inauguration of America’s 45th President, Donald J. Trump.
While the vast majority of demonstrations were peaceful, there were highly publicized reports of some riots, which resulted in serious damage to vehicles and businesses. According to the media, approximately 100 protestors were responsible for smashing the storefront windows of a McDonalds, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Starbucks in downtown Washington D.C. In addition, these protesters caused a host of other damages, including breaking the windows of cars and limousines and using flares and other incendiary devises to catch them on fire.
In response, Trump supporters maintained that the act of rioting is only endemic to Democrats, claiming that there were “no riots when Obama was elected.” Although I dispelled this historically revisionist account in part with an earlier article published in The Hill, the inauguration riots deserve further analysis.
Just as in 2017, the protests of Obama’s inaugurations were largely peaceful. However, many of the demonstrations against Obama were founded in racist rhetoric. For example, in 2009, the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan asked for its members to wear black armbands and fly the U.S. flag upside down on Inauguration Day and Obama’s first full day in office. In addition, the National Socialist Movement website released a statement that asked for mobilization, saying that, “President-elect Obama is going to be the spark that arouses the ‘white movement.’” The National Socialist Movement and its supporters felt that Obama’s election was good in one sense, because it would make "white people clear of the fact that that government in Washington, D.C., is not our government." Petitions to secede from the union were filed on behalf of 23 states following Obama’s election to a second term.
Obama’s inauguration in 2013 was also peacefully protested by demonstrators, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, who carried signs that read, “Fag Lover Obama,” “Soldiers Die 4 Fag Marriage,” and “Antichrist Obama.” Even Donald J. Trump responded to Obama’s second election into office by asking his followers to “march on Washington” in protest.
However, although the majority of demonstrations against Obama’s inaugurations were peaceful, while being rooted in racist rhetoric, there were also riots. For example, in 2013, 50-60 protestors smashed “a DVA Federal Credit Union ATM at 800 K Street NW, smashed a window and splattered paint on a side window at a bank at 901 7th Street NW and smashed a window at the Hooters at 825 7th Street NW, D.C.” One of the pamphlets left at the scene suggested that the culprits were anarchists, not conservatives or Republicans. A pamphlet left at the scene read, “Against Every Cop. Against Every Boss. Against Every President.”
It is highly likely that the same or similar group who rioted against President Obama caused the damage at President Trump’s inauguration.
Prior to Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, anarchist groups threatened to disrupt the events. Moreover, in the wake of the damage, the anarchy symbol was sprayed in graffiti on the side of the Board of Education Building in downtown D.C. Conservative news outlets also circulated pictures of vandalized New Orleans monuments, attributing the graffiti to “Anti-Trump Rioters.” However, again here, the graffiti was accompanied by an anarchy symbol.
Ultimately, conservatives need to stop forgetting history in order to discredit Trump protesters. The hundreds of thousands of people who marched on Washington last weekend were by and large voicing legitimate concerns. Attempting to delegitimize their message by citing the violence and damage caused by a few will do nothing more than to further polarize our nation.