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What I saw at the anti-Trump riot in DC

Police and rioters clash in Washington after a limo was set on fire amid protests Friday over Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. (SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES)

January 21, 2017 | Philip Wegmann

After protesters got tired of chanting “love trumps hate,” they started chucking rocks at cops.

On Friday thousands of protesters gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest the peaceful transition of power from one democratically-elected president to another. And it got ugly quickly.

Organized by the DisruptJ20 protest group, activists took aim at the alleged sexism and racism of the incoming administration. Practically speaking, that meant blocking security checkpoints, smashing windows, and torching at least one limousine outside the Washington Post building.

But while the media certainly gave them plenty of attention, the protesters probably won’t win much sympathy.

Families from flyover country were greeted to the nation’s capital with chants of “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” When short of breath, protesters opted for the more succinct, “Fuck Trump!” One activist even decided to lecture a young Republican, screaming “don’t grow up and grab women by the pussies!” before his father covered his ears.

When words failed them though, protesters turned to rioting. Wearing black face masks, they smashed the windows of Starbucks, Bank of America, and a Bobby Van’s steakhouse a few blocks from Capitol Hill. Private business didn’t suffer all the damage, though. Suddenly enemies of public transport, liberal rioters trashed at least one bus stop—an indicator of the aimlessness of the whole thing.

These protests can best be described as the opposite of the Tea Party movement. For all their supposed racism and bigotry, those conservative protesters never rioted. They just wore tacky costumes and gave hackneyed interpretations of history.

But the Trump protesters shouldn’t get too much credit for Friday’s tantrum. So far, they seem like the JV team to the rioters that trashed Ferguson and Baltimore. Most didn’t know whether to take selfies or retreat in front of a police line. A pile of flaming trashcans served as more of a prop for Instagram than a barricade for police.

Of course, they weren’t all bad though. Some showed real kindness. When one rioter threw my phone on the pavement and another threw me to the ground, a volunteer medic team rushed over to check me for a concussion. They were kind and sweet but it was evident they’d just missed an opportunity.

Riots gain attention while protests send a message. On the right, the Tea Party helped build a movement that swept Republicans into power. For the left, this display’s more likely to spark backlash, if it does anything at all.

Before Democrats lose another election, revisiting the rules of civil disobedience might be in order.