President Donald J. Trump has taken the oath of office, delivering a blunt speech rife with his signature autocratic declarations, promising to "make America great again" as tense protests swelled around Capitol Hill.
"Today's inauguration is an incredibly dark day for our country," Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive PAC Democracy for America, said in response to Trump's speech Friday. "The only thing more empty than the National Mall today during his poorly attended inaugural address were the platitudes Donald Trump made about bringing the country together."
"In fact, after putting forward a cabinet filled to the brim with self-dealing billionaires, bigots, and bullies, it's clear that Donald Trump is establishing the most corrupt, corporate, and bigoted administration in generations," Chamberlain said.
Protests were well underway by the time Trump was sworn in, with massive groups in the streets throughout Washington, D.C., chanting and wielding signs, blockading entrances to the inauguration, and at times clashing with armed police who sprayed tear gas with abandon.
"This is our right to stand here," said one protester, Mica Reel, who took part in an inaugural entrance blockade, the New York Times reported.
Another, Ramah Kudaimi, who sits on the board of the Washington Peace Center and helped organize one of the day's actions, said, "It's important from Day One of Trump's administration that we make clear that we are going to be disrupting his agenda. When communities are under attack, we are going to fight back."
In a vacuous speech that contrasted with former President Barack Obama's years of poignant addresses, Trump said, "Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come."
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"America will start winning again, winning like never before," he said. "We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams."
These pledges, along with references to "American carnage" wrought by "crime and drugs and gangs," stirred fears among the president's opponents who called attention to a campaign built on xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia—and a cabinet that belies his promise to "drain the swamp" of special interests.
CREDO political director Murshed Zaheed said, "Today's inauguration of a man who scapegoats Muslims and immigrants, demeans women, and openly advocates discrimination is not a cause for celebration or bipartisan camaraderie....In the coming weeks and months it will take firm opposition and dedicated resistance from Democrats in Congress to minimize the damage Trump is able to inflict on our communities and our democracy."
Demand Progress policy director Daniel Schuman said, "Donald Trump is unpresidential. He is an authoritarian who will stifle our free press, restore torture, expand mass surveillance, fill government with cronies, and use bully tactics to silence private citizens. Donald Trump will violate the Constitution on Day One and has given every indication of his intent to undermine our constitutional rights and privileges."
Progressive leaders praised Democratic lawmakers who boycotted the inauguration.
"By standing up to Trump, these courageous members of Congress are standing for the American people and our way of life," Schuman said.
Jo Comerford, campaign director at MoveOn.org, added, "Democrats boycotting today's inauguration are standing on the right side of history. Donald Trump is a threat to our nation."