WASHINGTON - Protesters took to the streets soon after President Donald Trump was inaugurated today, and law enforcement officers were quickly there as well. The scene was initially tense, with flash grenades going off and pepper spray streaming, but things cooled after a while.
At one point, with a phalanx of police officers blocking a street, things got kind of humorous.
"Is that a night stick in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" one protester quipped to the line of cops.
Another sat down and started dealing a deck of cards, to exude calm. A police supervisor pleaded with the crowd not to cross the security perimeter.
"Please, I'm begging you," the officer said. "I don't want to have to pull out pepper spray."
The two sides coexisted peacefully for a time. The calm didn't last.
Demonstrators set fires in the middle of the street several times, burning stuff like a trash can and newspapers. On the curb sat two limousines, their windows smashed. It's unclear who the culprits might have been, but several individuals wearing masks could be seen assembling bricks.
"(Bleep) off!" they told anyone who approached.
As the afternoon wore on, a new billow of smoke filled the air, and this one united the crowd immediately. Someone had tossed a tire (maybe the spare from the bashed-in limo?) onto the flames. Is it a great idea to ignite a fully inflated tire? The group seemed to wonder as one.
"GET BACK!" people started screaming, and suddenly hundreds of people were stampeding. And then, a new plume of smoke, and this one was different. Huge, billowing and black.
One of the limos was on fire. Here's what that looked like:
As you'd imagine the inferno summoned law enforcement, and encounters with protestors prompted more pepper spraying. One member of the crowd decided enough was enough, time to strip.
For what reason exactly, it wasn't clear, but he did sort of serve as a human flash grenade, creating a diversion that may have proved useful. I didn't see anymore pepper spraying after that.
The AJC sent a team of journalists to Washington to cover first the inauguration, then tomorrow's women's march. We'll be back on the street tomorrow.