More than a million people can be expected to be at or near today’s inauguration of President Elect Donald Trump. Most will be Trump supporters but tens of thousands are likely to be there to protest against the incoming Commander in Chief.
The talk of 350,000 protesters is probably overblown – inflated by hyperbole and the modern tendency to mark your intent on social media and then do nothing. Nevertheless, they will be there at minimum in their tens of thousands over today and the weekend.
The security headache this gives law enforcement is mitigated by two things. The protests are planned to take place over three days, thus spreading out the numbers both numerically and geographically. Trump supporters are expected to number under a million, well below the estimated 1.8 million people who were at President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. The police and security services coped then, and unless there is an act of terrorism they can be expected to cope today.
There will be probably be some violent incidents. Passions run high on both sides, and both sides include people whose passions run to violence.
For example, individuals who are either members of, or who have associated themselves with groups such as Disrupt J20, Occupy Inauguration, the Democratic Socialists of America, Black Lives Matter and the Black Bloc anarchist’s movement may not content themselves with peaceful protests especially if confronted by the police. Some of these are said to intend to disrupt the inauguration ceremony.
Most will be kept away from the main event which is a ticket only affair and their numbers will be relatively small as the biggest protest is expected to be tomorrow during the Women’s March on Washington.
Isolated incidents may occur if any of the more radical groups come into contact with the overly vociferous pro Trump groups who are heading into the capitol such as Bikers for Trump and Let America Hear Us, Roar for Trump! Both have permits to hold rallies close to where some of the protestors will be. The Let America Hear Us group will be gathering at Dupont Circle which is one of the most liberal and anti-Trump neighbourhoods in Washington D.C.
All of this is manageable. A few scuffles here and there may make the news, but a far bigger problem for the authorities is the threat of terrorism. The inauguration is a fantastically attractive target for terrorists be they of the extreme U.S. right wing variety or of international jihad. Even as the security services patrol the demonstrations for and against the new President they must also be constantly alert in case of a lone wolf incident and/or a major attack.