Violence Flares in Washington

Police pepper spray at anti-Trump protesters during clashes in Washington, DC, on January 20.(Photo: AFP)Police pepper spray at anti-Trump protesters during clashes in Washington, DC, on January 20.(Photo: AFP)

Black-clad activists among hundreds of demonstrators protesting Donald Trump's swearing-in clashed with police a few blocks from the White House, in an outburst of violence rare for an inauguration.

At least 217 people were arrested in the melees, police were quoted as saying by Aljazeera.

The burst of civil disorder followed a fierce presidential campaign that ended in a stunning victory for Republican Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton on November 8 and left the country divided.

Many of Trump's supporters traveled to Washington to cheer their new president on Inauguration Day. Tens of thousands of detractors are expected to march peacefully on Saturday.

In the violence, knots of activists in black clothes and masks threw rocks and bottles at officers wearing riot gear, who responded with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades as a helicopter hovered low overhead.

At one flash point, a protester hurled an object through the passenger window of a police van, which sped away in reverse as demonstrators cheered. 

Earlier, activists used chunks of pavement and baseball bats to shatter the windows of a Bank of America branch and a McDonald's outlet, all symbols of American capitalism.

Multiple vehicles were set on fire, including a black limousine. A knot of people dragged garbage cans into a street a few blocks from the White House and set them ablaze, later throwing a red cap bearing Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan into the flames. Police said six officers were injured in scuffles with protesters. 

"The people arrested would be held overnight before making court appearances on Saturday," Peter Newsham, interim chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, told a news conference. 

Newsham added that police would continue to monitor security around the night's celebrations. Later on Saturday, thousands of locals and expat Americans have taken to the streets in several cities in New Zealand and in Australia, kicking off the global Women's March on Washington movement following the inauguration of Trump.

In Sydney, Australia, thousands of people gathered on Saturday to march through the city.

Organizers said the demonstration was more than just about Trump.

"We're doing this because we don't want to stand by and let the bigotry rhetoric of Donald Trump prevail," Ayebatonye Abrakasa told Aljazeera.


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