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America’s capital braces itself for the inauguration of a man it overwhelmingly voted against

Reuters/Mike Segar
Fireworks explode over the Lincoln Memorial after the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” concert.
By Heather Timmons
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

America’s big cities voted overwhelmingly in favor of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the US presidential election—and no metropolitan area went more for Clinton than the nation’s capital of Washington, DC.

That means tensions are rising as some 800,000 Trump supporters expected to attend his inauguration tomorrow begin to stream into the city. Clad in patriotic garb and “Make America Great” caps, Trump supporters from around the country wandered the grassy Mall where the spillover audience will stand for the inauguration, visited the Washington Monument, and attended an inaugural concert at Lincoln Memorial on Thursday afternoon.

Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
At the Lincoln Memorial inauguration concert.

Trump and his wife Melania greeted the crowds at the Lincoln Memorial concert Thursday evening.

The “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration.”

The massive chasm that opened between Trump supporters and those who opposed him during this election does not appear to have subsided. The tension between the influx of visitors and DC residents is palpable, with local commuters eyeing folks clad in Trump gear warily on the subways and sidewalks. Rallies supporting outgoing president Barack Obama and protests against Trump are springing up all over the city. Ahead of the Lincoln Memorial concert, Obama fans held a demonstration in front of the White House.

AP Photo/John Minchilo
Demonstrators gather near the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, to thank outgoing President Barack Obama.

On Wednesday night, a man set himself on fire outside of Trump International Hotel, the former post office building that is now one of Trump’s most glaring conflicts of interest. At least a dozen counter protests are planned in the city on inauguration day, and as many as 200,000 people are expected for the Jan. 21 “Women’s March” for women’s rights that was organized in response to Trump’s triumph in November.

Across Capitol Hill, behind the US Capitol building, residents planted signs with quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.—like “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere”—along the routes people are likely to take to the inauguration. A vendor on Pennsylvania Avenue, where the inaugural parade will run tomorrow, was selling t-shirts on Thursday that said “My body, my choice,” but nothing with “Trump” on it, and a scruffy band played electric guitar in front of “F-CK Trump” graffiti near Eastern Market.

Outside the Foggy Bottom Metro, a street vendor was doing brisk business in “Obama 44” t-shirts at the same time that he was selling “Make America Great Again” buttons.

Selling “like hotcakes!” he said, of both items.

DC Democrats

While a tiny portion of DC’s 680,00 population ebbs and flows depending on who is in the White House, the permanent residents of the city are, for the most part, staunchly Democratic. About half the population is African-American, and in the 2016 presidential election the county was the most Democratic-leaning in the country:

Though the incoming Republican administration may mean more Republicans in some of the city’s more expensive suburbs, the city is home to a variety of nonprofits and industry groups whose employees help bolster and maintain Democratic turnout. The national headquarters of civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union are in New York City, for example, but they have a strong DC presence as well.

Some of the city’s residents will be “celebrating” the inauguration by completely avoiding it, and have already left town. Others are organizing events during the inauguration that involve trying to ignore it completely. “We’re not turning on the TV, we will have alcohol, and our kids will be a little feral in the back yards,” said one local, who calls the event the “Inaugural Bawl.”

“We’re going to drown our sorrows for the day, and then tomorrow we’re going to pick ourselves up and go to the women’s march,” she said.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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