Whether coming to celebrate or to protest, making the trip to Washington for Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday might just be the biggest hassle in the United States.
The city is in lockdown. Vehicle traffic is largely forbidden. The bridges are mostly shut down. Concrete barricades have closed about 100 intersections. Unless you’re in a motorcade, the subway seems to be the only way in or out.
Washingtonians are hiding indoors. Commuters won’t commute.
To secure a spot on the now-fortified National Mall — the expansive strip of land between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial — many will arrive by 6 a.m., hours ahead of the noon event. More will arrive even earlier, waiting for the park to open after an enormous security sweep.
Yet 800,000 people are expected to flood the city’s streets to watch the billionaire businessman take the oath of office and make his first address as the 45th president of the United States.
“I’ve never been to an inauguration before,” says Mike Gallieta, who arrived from Massachusetts, one of the country’s bluest states. “It’s fun to get to see it up close.”
Gallieta thinks differently about Trump than many of his neighbours. “I hope he does everything he said he was going to do: Lower taxes, better economy, deal with immigration.”
Even among Trump supporters, there is a divide about what combating illegal immigration looks like. To some, it’s very literal: Build the much-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Others don’t expect that wall to be built, as more than one already exists along the most troublesome parts of the border.
But most say they want change in Washington and they’ve rallied around Trump’s “America First” policies, especially when it comes to the loss of middle-class jobs.
Galietta’s childhood friend, Mike Casavant, made the journey to D.C. with him. Ahead of Friday’s big event, they were visiting the White House that will soon replace Trump Tower as the president-elect’s less tall, less gleaming home.
Casavant is less concerned about immigration and more about breaking the deadlock that has gripped Washington politics during the Obama era — and in the years before it.
“I think Trump can make a difference. He can shake up politics. He’s questioning the way we’re doing business and I think that’s good.”
‘What kind of change?’
Not far away, in Marshall, Va., Scott Christian will also head to Washington this week. But he doesn’t intend to celebrate.
Instead he’s chartered a bus to bring protesters from his hometown to Saturday’s Women’s March, when thousands are expected to converge on Washington during a rally calling for equality.
“Basically I think Trump’s campaign was so outrageous and so offensive,” Christian says. “Trump doesn’t represent anywhere near all of America.”
Christian lives in a county that voted nearly two-to-one for Trump. Located an hour’s drive from Washington, D.C., its rolling green hills have long been horse country.
There is money here; the average household income is about $100,000.
But it’s seen decay, too. Small manufacturers that went bust decades ago. Abandoned buildings are a reminder of a different past.
“Half my church voted for Trump,” Christian says, while sitting at the Marshall Diner. “I don’t find too much enthusiasm for Trump now. It was basically a protest vote.”
Trump, of course, is promising change. But Christian remains skeptical.
“What kind of change?” he says. “The rust belt isn’t going to come back to manufacture, the wall [along the Mexican border] isn’t going to happen.”
A few tables over is Jenny Connor, who says she thinks Trump has lost some of his lustre since winning the presidency. He’s not, in her mind, acting very presidential.
“I was a fan of Trump when he first started — I really liked the guy. And then the more he said, it was like you gotta stop at some point. The big mouth and the way that he just rants off things. I mean that really, that needs to come down.”
But it was that no-holds-barred attitude that helped land Trump in the White House. And since his confrontational style of politics hasn’t let up in the 10 weeks since the vote, many expect his brashness to continue once inside the Oval Office.
Friday’s inaugural address may also help set the tone for what’s to come. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer has described the speech as more of a “philosophical document” than a policy agenda.
“This is something very personal to him,” Spicer told reporters Wednesday. “He wants to talk about his vision, where he sees this country and where we are right now.”
At 20 minutes, it’s also expected to be short; Trump has said he wants to squeeze in a little work on his first day in office.
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