From blocking bridges and roads to shutting down Metro, disruptive protests attempting to undermine the legitimacy of President-elect Donald Trump before his first day in office could have the opposite effect — making the new president look statesmanlike by comparison, Republican observers say.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend on the nation’s capital for Friday’s inauguration. While some protesters have committed to airing their grievances peacefully, others are going out of their way to make the day as chaotic as possible.
Republican strategist Michael McKenna said protesting the peaceful transition of power is “really an unhelpful thing” for Democrats looking to establish the moral high ground and turn public opinion against Mr. Trump.
“It’s pathological,” said Mr. McKenna, who at one point advised the Trump transition. “Democrats need to realize that one-party rule doesn’t serve anyone’s purposes. Competition is what makes this whole thing work, and Democrats need to start being a competitive party again.”
In the weeks leading up to the inauguration, National Park Services spokesman Mike Lisserst said the agency received 30 requests for demonstration permits, a “dramatic increase” from previous years.
But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told reporters last week that the agency knew of just under 100 groups that have expressed an intention to protest.
Organizers at one of the larger protest efforts, DisruptJ20, which was not listed as having applied for a permit, were caught on a video released by Project Veritas this week plotting to block as many entry points into the city as possible, including by shutting down a Metro subway with a chain.
Lacy MacAuley, a DisruptJ20 organizer, said the group had “abandoned that plan,” but still intends to cut off the flow of traffic to the inaugural by blocking roads and bridges with pedestrians.
“Our organizing has been transparent, and while we do intend to make a strong statement on January 20, we believe in not harming anyone (though we support the right to self defense),” Ms. MacAuley said in a statement. “We will celebrate resistance and oppose the Trump agenda. January 20 is only the first day of setting the tone of resistance for years to come.”
Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, which is hosting a sold-out inaugural tea party on Saturday, said Mr. Trump’s foes ought to show him the same courtesy Republicans did at both of President Obama’s uncontested inaugurals.
“Republicans by and large were the loyal opposition to President Obama during his tenure in the White House, because that is our role in partisan politics,” Mr. Angelo said. “You did not see Republicans marching down the street, calling Obama’s victory illegitimate, chanting that he was not their president. I’ve accepted Obama as my president for the last eight years. I certainly have differences with him, but not to the point that I took to the streets, engaging in histrionics.”
He said efforts to derail the inauguration are “tiresome” and will only increase Mr. Trump’s appeal to those who are least certain about him.
“I would say that every time liberals act up and continue to deride our 45th president, they are making political moderates and independents who might have had hesitations about the votes they cast for Trump far more comfortable with the votes that they took,” he said.
The National Park Service has received permit applications from a diverse array of pro- and anti-Trump groups — and other organizations that seem to have no connection to the president-elect at all.
The ANSWER Coalition, which stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, expects to draw 10,000 demonstrators to the U.S. Navy Memorial Plaza to jeer at the inaugural parade as it passes by.
The Westboro Baptist Church has a permit for 20 protesters at John Marshall Park. They’ll be met there by 5,000 Bikers For Trump revving their engines in honor of the president-elect.
Chris Cox, founder of the pro-Trump biker gang, said his group will form a “wall of meat” if necessary to maintain order at the inaugural.
“We’ll be shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers, and we’ll be toe-to-toe with anyone who is going to break through any police barriers, that is going to be assaulting women, spitting on them, throwing things at them,” Mr. Cox said on “Fox & Friends” this week. “We are anticipating a peaceful transition of power.”
Just under 1 million people are expected to attend this year’s inauguration. That number is down from an estimated 1.8 million who turned out in 2009 for President Obama’s first swearing-in ceremony, but is up from the crowd of 300,000 who made the trek in 2001 for George W. Bush.
Thousands of National Guard troops and local police officers will be on hand to provide security.
Inauguration protesters were egged on by Democratic lawmakers pledging to boycott the event. Led by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, roughly one-third of the party’s 194-member House caucus will be elsewhere on Inauguration Day.
“They’re acting like 5-year-olds,” Mr. McKenna said of the elected officials. “It’s like they’re closing their ears and pretending that voters aren’t trying to tell them anything. Protesting — you expect that from 20-year-olds. But these are grown men; these are congressmen.”