Part 2: Inauguration Day.
Woke up in Arlington, Friday at 7am, just a few short hours after laying down. First stop was the 4,200 joint giveaway at Dupont Circle. The line of people stretched for several blocks, at least a quarter mile down the street. Found Annie, who works for a congressman and scored us coveted blue section inauguration tickets. Together we moseyed to ground zero of the official ceremonies. Took a pic with a Trump supporter along the way.
Although the streets outside the secure area were teeming with people, most of them were protesters. Inside the gates, which you could only get past after a thorough screening, there were thousands of people, but also plenty of empty space. And that space was broken into nearly a dozen smaller, separate areas spreading the crowd along the National Mall. It was organized with the wealthiest people in front, inaccessible to people with cheaper tickets.
Annie and I strolled a couple hundred yards along the string of service men and women who lined each side of the parade route, like statues. The motorcade zoomed by. Around this time security noticed us and ushered us back into the viewing area. We saw there was room to be filled in closer sections, so we joined a small crowd of blue ticket holders who were clearly thinking the same thing. One of them was the lady I’d taken a pic with earlier.
“Let’s see if I can use my police ID to get in there,” she said. Followed her to the guard in front, he was not impressed. They had reached the number of people allowed in that section. No exceptions.
The crowd was eager but when anybody they didn’t like appeared onscreen (including Bernie and the Obamas), the crowd would shout, “BOOOOO!” Worse, when Hillary was introduced they chanted, “Lock her up! Lock her up!” It was embarrassing to be among them.
Caught a glimpse of Jimmy Carter, George Bush, the Clintons, Obamas and at long last the the Man of the Hour. His entire family, aside from brief moments when they managed crack a smile, looked dour, morose, miserable. When I couldn’t stand it any longer, dawned my Pussy Riot mask and took off to investigate the protest.
That’s when I ran into the cop lady for the third time, “Hey, we meet again!” I said cheerfully.
She had no idea who was behind the mask – I’d forgotten I was wearing it. Revealed myself, but she knew I was from the other side now and bristled. I moved on.
Before long, met a couple photographers. (They liked my mask.) While we were at lunch together, heard a riot had broken out. Kicked ourselves for not being there in the thick of it. Soon as we were done, went out in search of action.
Traffic wasn’t moving. Helicopters were circling and there was music blaring from a large flatbed truck, decorated with giant letters spelling TRUMP. A parade float! The song they were blasting was, “Celebrate” by Cool and the Gang, on repeat. We danced around them, between cars who still weren’t moving. That was fun until we noticed black smoke billowing into the sky. The three of us, of course, went toward it.
A line of cops in riot gear blocked us from getting any closer, so we headed off to the right. That’s when one of them grabbed me, pinching hard into my upper arm saying, “You can’t go that way either.”
Changed course again, taking the long way around. There was no getting a better view, but that was fine because now we had people laying in the street, with a herd of law enforcement descending upon them. It was thrilling, feeling compelled to both continue shooting and run away. Stuck around long enough to get shoved by a couple cops, then noticed they’d gotten out tear gas guns. Time to get outta there.
Found Annie, went to the place where she was staying, thinking we were going to have a short break before going out on the town. Instead fell asleep on the couch to the sound of constant buzzing helicopters, while we waited for pizza to arrive. Made it back to Linda’s (where I was staying) at a reasonable hour, feeling wise to conserve energy for the big day ahead.
Come back soon for my experience at the Women’s March and follow-up Town Hall at the National Press Club.