- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Take President-elect Donald Trump, add the rise of the professional protest class, and you’ve got a recipe for a record-shattering inauguration protest.

Democrats, left-wing activists and people who just don’t like Mr. Trump are planning to descend on Friday’s inauguration ceremony and related events by the thousands in an effort to start the 45th president’s term off on the wrong foot.

The magnitude of the protests is expected to blow past the record set at the 1973 inauguration of President Richard Nixon, when more than 25,000 activists marched and dozens were arrested.

“Based upon what I’ve read and the number of people that I’ve heard will be coming to protest the inauguration, it sounds like this will be the all-time record,” said Jim Bendat, author of “Democracy’s Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President, 1789-2013.”

“Police estimated [25,000 to] 30,000 protesters at Nixon’s second inauguration,” Mr. Bendat said. “I think there were around 20,000 for one of George W. Bush’s. The numbers could reach and surpass that this year.”

One event alone — the Women’s March on Washington, scheduled for Saturday, the day after the inauguration — is expected to draw as many as 200,000 demonstrators, which would represent a sevenfold increase over the Nixon protest crowd.

That doesn’t include the other 23 events that have permits or have applied to obtain them from the National Park Service for demonstrations on service-managed properties on inauguration weekend.

The figure comes as a sizable jump from the half-dozen First Amendment permits issued for the last several presidential inaugurals.

“So this year certainly represents a dramatic increase,” said Mike Litterst, public affairs officer for the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

One big reason is Mr. Trump himself, a larger-than-life real estate mogul and reality television star whose unorthodox campaign style prompted a love-him-or-hate-him reaction from voters.

By contrast, the 1973 inauguration protest was rooted in the opposition to the Vietnam War than with Mr. Nixon himself, while demonstrators flocked to the 2001 inaugural after the infamous “hanging chads” election that ended when Mr. Bush eked out a win after weeks of recounts in Florida.

“For the protest at Nixon’s time, they weren’t really about the person as much as they were about the Vietnam War,” Mr. Bendat said, adding that the Bush inauguration was “more so about the disputed election.”

“This time, it’s really more about the individual and what this individual has said, and his divisiveness and his contradictions that have led to people really being upset,” he said about the Trump inauguration.

Conservatives point to another factor: the advent of a permanent protest movement, stoked by millions in funding from left-wing foundations such as the Tides Foundation and pro-Democrat billionaires such as George Soros and Tom Steyer.

Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, said left-wing groups are using the inauguration “as an excuse to push their own liberal agendas.”

“I look at all of these people who are committed to protesting the inauguration, and I can’t help but ask myself, ‘What the hell are you protesting? What is it?’ ” he asked. “I can’t get a straight answer from any liberal I know. The closest thing I can come up with is that they’re protesting the free and fair election of a Republican president, which is just absolutely absurd.”

Leading the Friday protests is the ANSWER Coalition, which has three permits for #InaugurateTheResistance events that could draw more than 20,000 activists. The main protest, featuring music and DJs, falls along the parade route at the Navy Memorial.

The coalition says it wants “to send a powerful message of opposition to the extremist Trump agenda, which includes attacks on Muslim and immigrant communities, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and the wholesale privatization of the public sector, among other pro-Wall Street extremist plans that constitute the core of the Trump Agenda.”

Most of the protesters are expected to exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully, but some of those descending on the nation’s capital have openly admitted to being bent on mayhem.

DisruptJ20, a coalition of left-wing groups and anarchists, has vowed to “stop the inauguration from happening” and force it to move indoors, while RefuseFascism has called for protesters to “take to the streets” to “stop the Trump-Pence regime before it starts.”

Fears of protests going off the rails were heightened after the undercover group Project Veritas released hidden-camera footage Monday showing members of the D.C. Anti-Fascist Coalition plotting to set off stink bombs and the sprinkler system Thursday night at the DeploraBall.

Members of the coalition have denied making such plans, saying they were trying to set up a Project Veritas investigator by giving him false information, while PV President James O’Keefe dismissed the explanation, calling it “fake news.”

MAGA3X, host of the DeploraBall, is taking the threat seriously: Organizers announced Tuesday that they contacted the FBI and local law enforcement and issued refunds after discovering several DisruptJ20 members had purchased tickets to the ball.

In a second video released Tuesday, DisruptJ20 organizer Legba Carrefour told a meeting of activists that “we’re going to try to blockade all the major ingress points in the city,” including shutting down bridges, highway access points, and the Metro train system.

“Our goal is to continue to help shut down the city at like, midinauguration, a giant clusterf—k that day,” said Dylan Petrohilos of Industrial Workers of the World, part of the DisruptJ20 coalition, in the hidden-camera video. “So, be prepared to help make the inauguration a giant clusterf—k.”

Not all the demonstrators are anti-Trump.

Bikers for Trump has a permit for an event at John Marshall Park that is expected to draw 5,000, while another group, Roar for Trump, plans to bring 500 supporters to Dupont Circle.

Mr. Angelo, who will be attending a presidential inauguration for the first time, said the Log Cabin Republicans are keeping an eye out on security for the group’s Saturday tea party, but he doesn’t plan on letting the protests spoil the weekend.

“I’m certainly not oblivious to the fact that there are people who are going to be in Washington, D.C., with the goal of disrupting any event that is associated with celebrating our 45th president, so we’re going to be vigilant in that regard,” he said. “But we’re also going to have a lot of fun.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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