The night after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, I was walking up Broadway when I saw a woman weeping on the corner. Hundreds of protesters were marching north toward Trump Tower, drivers were blaring their horns in frustration or support, and illuminated ads for smartphones and snack foods turned the rainy air into a noxious fog. This woman stood crying with relief.
“So many people woke up this morning feeling disempowered,” Becky Phillips told me. “I am so excited to see so many people still feeling like they have power, and coming together. This is really hopeful,” she added.
As I scribbled her words down in my wet notebook, I remembered how drained of power the crowds on the subway had felt that first morning — sapped of the crackling energy that had drawn millions of us to this filthy town in the first place. In the street that night, among my fellow New Yorkers who rely on one another for a seat on the train, for a hand up endless staircases, for survival, our sense of community returned. And we were all sending a message to the man who threatens to destroy it.
A little after noon on Friday, January 20, that man will become the most powerful person on the planet. D.C. officials expect at least 800,000 people to show up for inauguration weekend — roughly the same number President Barack Obama saw for his second inauguration, in 2013, but around a million less than Obama’s 2009 swearing-in. According to the National Parks Service, 21 different groups have applied for First Amendment permits on federal land along the inauguration route. Others are just planning on showing up and speaking their minds.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” Frederick Douglass famously said, and those demands are much harder to ignore if they’re made in person. With too much at stake to stay home, the only questions left are: When do you go, and how do you get there?
WHEN TO GO?
Several groups will host demonstrations for tens of thousands of protesters aimed at either disrupting Trump’s inaugural parade procession or at least heaping unwanted scrutiny on our dangerously thin-skinned president:
• Navy Memorial, 7 a.m.: The Act Now to Stop War & End Racism Coalition (ANSWER), a group steered by members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a split-off from the Workers World Party, is holding a permitted rally not far from the White House and in plain view of the parade route. “It’s a historic moment in that you have a president elect who is promising to declare war on workers’ rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, and you’re not gonna change history by staying at home; you make history by standing up,” Ben Becker, an ANSWER spokesperson, tells the Voice. “We [sought] a permit because we want to have people feel comfortable and confident that they can come out and protest.” [Update: The Answer Coalition is now directing protesters to the Navy Memorial, rather than Freedom Plaza.]
• Dupont Circle, 8 a.m.: A group called DCMJ will hand out coffee, tea, and 4,200 joints before marching to the National Mall at 10 a.m. “We’re forcing Donald Trump and Senator Jeff Sessions to be tolerant of the cannabis movement,” says Adam Eidinger, the group’s founder, referring to Trump’s attorney general pick, who once said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” DCMJ’s website states that four minutes and twenty seconds into Trump’s speech, participants will “light up!” (Eidinger says he officially discourages public smoking, which is illegal on the Mall, but notes some may feel “compelled” to break the law.) “Trump has a choice: on day one he can arrest all of us, we’re all going to be one place.”
• McPherson Square, 9 a.m.: A collective of anarchist-aligned organizations under the name #DisruptJ20 will meet for “mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump and planning widespread direct actions to make that happen,” according to the group’s website.
• Independence Avenue and Third Street S.W., 10 a.m. Around 200,000 people are expected to converge on the Mall for a Women’s March on Washington that is not being explicitly framed as a protest against Donald Trump. “We are centering women and women’s rights for this march as opposed to centering it around politics and ‘anti this’ or ‘anti that’ sort of rhetoric,” says Bob Bland, one of the organizers. “This is something that generations have already been fighting for, and we’ve made a lot of strides during that time, but we’re still clearly nowhere near where we need to be when it comes to civil rights, when you look at misogyny, bigotry, and racism in the U.S.”
WHERE TO STAY?
• Hotels in and around D.C. are either full or prohibitively expensive. As this story went to press, Airbnb was listing entire apartments for rent in D.C. proper in the $350 to $400 nightly range, with prices dropping to $250 and $150 in Virginia and Maryland; single rooms outside the city are still renting at around $80 to $100.
• Some local activists are helping visiting protesters find a place to sleep, with #DisruptJ20 stating on its website that it will give priority to “black and brown, trans and queer, and disabled folks.” The Rev. Robert Hardies of All Souls Church Unitarian in D.C., located around two miles from the inaugural parade route, said that his church is sponsoring a pay-what-you-can couch-surfing campaign for “progressive people of faith” after a “bed and breakfast” at his church filled up with forty attendees.
“For the church, the Inauguration weekend is an opportunity to declare our intention to be, when necessary, a site of sanctuary and resistance in the new administration,” Rev. Hardies told the Voice. “We want to be a sanctuary for those who are unjustly persecuted in the new administration, and a site of resistance to these policies that threaten human dignity and human rights and the future of our planet.”
While he says he wishes he could personally host more visitors, “we’re not sure our plumbing can take that many folks.”
HOW TO GET THERE?
• A few Amtrak tickets are left, but they’re at odd hours and at least $160 apiece (unless you want to leave on Thursday morning). At press time, Megabus, Bolt Bus, Peter Pan, Greyhound, and GotoBus all had seats available before and on Inauguration Day for $30 to $50 each way. ANSWER still has seats on its buses running from Union Square, East Harlem, and Jackson Heights for $50 round-trip; you can also apply for a discounted fare. Those buses leave at 1 a.m. on Friday morning and return to New York Friday night.
• Four-day car rentals from Newark Airport range from $100 for a compact to a little more than $200 for a minivan, but driving into D.C. isn’t advisable. Instead you could try parking at or near a Washington Metro or MARC train station in Maryland or Virginia to get into the city. (Both Metro and MARC are running more frequent service on inauguration weekend, but both shut down at midnight.) Try to arrive early: “Historically, end-of-the-line station parking does fill up fast,” says Ron Holzer, a spokesperson for the Washington Metro.
While the logistics of getting to the protests may be necessarily ad hoc, organizers hope that the same outrage that filled the streets after Election Day will bring record-breaking crowds to greet the Trump White House. To those still on the fence, Bland poses this question: “Is there anything about this country that you’d like to changed? If so, get your butt to Washington.”
Research assistance by Gunar Olsen