WASHINGTON – Protesters created havoc across Washington on Inauguration Day, shattering glass storefronts and torching cars but never posing a serious security threat to President Trump’s official inaugural ceremonies.
Authorities said 217 people were arrested Friday in the protests and demonstrations, which started before dawn and at one point turned into a full-scale riot.
Most of the damage was inflicted by protesters associated with the group DistruptJ20 that had vowed for weeks to “paralyze” the city.
Black-clad protestors with their faces covered smashed out the windows of a limousine, then set it afire. They also shattered the class-fronts of a Bank of America, McDonald’s and Starbucks, as police officers fired pepper spray to tried to disperse the crowd as it moved from midtown to the Inaugural Parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said the destruction started at about 10:30 a.m. and that those arrested were charged with rioting.
He also said that six police officers were injured in clashes with protesters, including three with head injuries. One civilian also was injured, and none of the injuries was life threatening.
“Going into today, the goal was to ensure everyone wishing to peacefully exercise their rights had ability do so,” said Newsham, who also thanked the federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies from across the country that came to help. ”Unfortunately, a small group of people have engaged in vandalism and violence against officers. This will not be tolerated.”
Newsham also called for calm overnight, as visitors attend inauguration balls throughout the city.
The disruptions started early. Shortly after daybreak, protesters started blocking the roughly 10 security checkpoints to the parade and other official events. But Trump’s swearing-in on Capitol Hill and the parade to the White House occurred with no reported problems.
The group Black Lives Matter forced the Secret Service to close one checkpoint after members, just after dawn, started blocked the gates and chaining themselves to fences.
A Kansas couple told FoxNews.com that demonstrators attacked them at the checkpoint.
Celeste Sollars, who said she and her husband came to town from Kansas to see the inauguration, said they were spit on and her husband was put in a chokehold by protesters.
“The cops wouldn’t do anything,” she said, crying. “This is not how it was supposed to be — assault is not a First Amendment right.”
Sollars said she was attacked — as demonstrators followed through on threats to disrupt President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural ceremonies.
“We are here to let people know this presidency is not legit. It goes against hundreds of years of democracy — black lives matter,” BLM DC’s Tracye Redd told FoxNews.com.
Among the first to arrive Friday morning was Bill McCann, who planned to join up with Bikers for Trump, after having drove his motorcycle from Fort Worth, Texas.
“Ever since Mr. Trump announced his candidacy, I’ve supported him 100 percent,” said McCann under the light of the Capitol Rotunda, as protesters with the anti-war group Jewish Voice for Peace rallied just blocks away.
McCann spoke under the light of the Capitol Rotunda amid a heavy police presence.
“We’re here to say that whoever is president, ‘No more war,’ ” said Naomi Dann, of Brooklyn. “The incoming president hasn’t said whether he’s a pacifist, but I’m pretty sure he’s not.”
Dann said her concerns and those of other group members include “targeting Muslims” and increased surveillance.
“A lot of people are angry,” she said.
Fox News’ Guerin Hays, Jake Gibson, Matthew Dean and Griff Jenkins and FoxNews.com’s Brooke Singman contributed to this report.