WASHINGTON, DC—Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the United States. Over the course of his inaugural weekend and the massive Women's March on Washington, we talked to 45 people—supporters, protesters, and those who found themselves somewhere in between—about the incoming administration and what it was they were doing in the city.
Whether it was fear, loathing, optimism, satisfaction, resentment, or an ambivalent desire to just get on with their day, this is everything we heard in the first 48 hours of Donald Trump's America.
Some interviews have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. Full names and ages are listed where they were provided.
Why did you and your mom come together to the Women's March?
Sarada: I’m a history teacher and I got my Master's in history. My thesis is on the civil rights movement and I have so much respect for the people I interviewed. But this is actually my first experience I’ve ever had protesting.
Visala: Women’s rights are human rights. Women [are] important in the world. In the Hindu culture there is Devi. Life starts with women.
Michele: It’s hard to watch all the things that don’t seem to be where our country should be going. There are too many things that are harmful to all of our standards and beliefs. We have to be heard. This is the beginning. This is the beginning. We have to be vigilant, we have to be on our senators and on Congress.
Cat: We have to find out a way for them to hear our cause.
Michele: We’re too easily ignored.
But maybe not anymore?
I'm really into the aesthetic quality of your sign. Why are you marching?
I am angry as hell that we have elected an insane psychotic as our president and I am letting people know. The people he has appointed and surrounded himself in his Cabinet are a disgrace, to use his word. It’s insane that he’s nominated Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, a woman who doesn’t even believe in public education to be the head of the education department. It’s insane, it feels like I’m living in a dystopian reality.
Did you come to the Women's March with anyone today?
I came with my mom.
And why did you and your mom want to come?
Because we don’t like Donald Trump.
Do you want to be a future president?
Because I want to change the world.
Can I ask what your sign means?
Friend, no name given, translating: Her sign says 'no for racism, no for hate. Yes for love, yes for peace.'
Booooooo! Booooo! Fuck off! Fuck you!
What brought you here from Tennessee?
I'm raised by Freedom Riders and activists, so I just had to. I had to come up here and protest.
Did your parents have any advice for you based on their own experiences growing up protesting with the civil rights movement?
You have to be willing to stand for what you believe by any means necessary. We have to push forward, even if it means getting arrested or how dangerous things can get, you still have to push forward to reach your goal.
Do you think they're proud that you're out here today?
Yes! They are excited and cheering me on.
Did you want to work today?
When you're pedicabbing you basically have to work inaugurations if you want to make money.
Who have you been taking out today?
The reason I was up so early this morning was because I had some VIPs. They were media. I had to take them to where they needed to be. I'll take anybody. I don't try to make windows on anybody's soul, it's as simple as that. The only thing I will not let anybody do is sloganeer or say anything from the cab or be disrespectful. I've had that in the past and that's when I say you have to get off, we're done here.
You've seen a lot of the city today then. What's your take so far?
The campaign that we had begets the inaugural day that we have. He uncorked a lot of nasty, nasty feelings. He went places most politicians in this country have been striving not to go to, rhetorically, for a long time. He just came right now, uncorked the racism, the xenophobia, the misogyny. People are looking for historical parallels, but I'm a historian and the only parallel I can draw is between now and the late Republic of the Roman Empire.
It didn't work out so well for them.
It did not, but I like to remind people that Rome did not go away. It endured for at least another 500 years.
So we've got at least that long.
Why did you decide to protest today?
The idea of having Trump in office with his appointments—a lot of us are really scared.
What will the work be like for you in the next four years?
Well, there’s a lot. I think over the last eight years a lot of the resistance has kind of fallen to the background and now it’s picking up again.
Are you optimistic about that?
[To the woman walking beside him as they passed a line of protesters in formation:] Please, not one of them pays taxes.
Otisiokiyi: We came out to see the protesters. It’s my first inauguration, personally, and I wanted to see how it was going to be. The protesters are strong this year. I’m just waiting to see what will happen.
Will you join in?
Definitely. I’m in the midst of it right now, taking everything in slowly. I don’t want to get too much mixed emotions, I have enough emotion right now.
Charise: There’s a lot of peaceful energy, but there’s tension too. Everyone has a purpose here, everyone has their own beliefs.
What are your beliefs?
I disagree with Donald Trump. He's discriminatory toward a lot of people.
Why did you come out today?
Cheyenne: Trump is a threat to our sovereignty; he is a threat to Native women in particular to not having laws for our tribes. We are still continuing to strive for our own sovereignty. He is a threat to our lands and our bodies, it’s the same thing.
Jen: We came to represent our organization, the Red Nation, and to protest the inauguration. We know that as we speak there are people being gassed and that sort. We are here to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock. We are here to bring attention to the fact that Trump seeks to privatize tribes and wants to utilize us as resource colonies.
I'm sorry to interrupt your lunch. Have you protested before?
Leah: I've been in women's marches before. I'm here to inaugurate the resistance. I don't think we've ever had such a bad president, so this is my the first inaugural protest. But I want to get politically re-energized, very involved with Democratic politics.
Did Trump's comments about John Lewis strike a particular chord since you're from Georgia?
Oh yes, everyone in Atlanta was furious. His district includes Downtown Atlanta and Buckhead, which is like the Rodeo Drive of the city. It was absurd.
Amy: He said it was on fire!
Trump seems to think a lot of things are burning.
Do the llamas like to protest?
They actually like it. Some humans go to the zoo, the llamas like to look at the silly humans. Take back our farms, families, freedom. It’s time to get corporate government out.
Who are you whistling for?
I’m trying to find the people I came with. My ministry is a group of men that meet regularly to study God’s word and be better husbands, fathers, and community leaders.
How do you feel Trump measures up to those standards?
I think Donald Trump has some areas of concern for all people, but I believe he is a good man overall. We are grateful he has chosen Mike Pence as his vice president.
Did your support waver at all when his comments about grabbing women by the vagina were made public? That being a star gave him power to grab women?
I don’t think he actually said all those things, but no man supports that type of action. Those actions are inappropriate.
And you voted for him?
Bryce: We need to treat each other with more respect, more equality, and I don’t think Trump is going to do that.
Ethan: I’m here for pretty much the same deal, really.
How have people been liking the signs?
Bryce: They're loving them, actually.
Why did you wear this today? It’s quite a get up.
Oh, thank you. This is Mary, Jesus’ mother. She is the mother of all of the Americas, so I’m bringing her to Donald Trump, to the American people. We need Jesus and Mary, male and female.
What do you make of Trump’s faith?
Trump is an example of a very important thing that we can all learn—that Jesus and Mary can use sinners to do their will.
Did you sell commemorative merch at President Obama’s inaugurations?
I’ve been selling for five years. Obama was very, very profitable. We don’t know yet about the Trumps because not many people have been coming right now.
I have never been to DC in my life, never have. I came to support Donald Trump. That’s the reason I’m here. The people in government have made themselves kings, but you’ve got veterans living on the streets without anywhere to stay. The boys that fought for this country can’t get nothing, can’t even get medical.
Are you worried about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and people losing insurance through that?
I don’t think they’re gonna lose it. I think Trump has already got in place a plan, to be honest with you.
Do you think Jesus would want everybody to have health care?
If Jesus were still here, baby, everybody would.
The reason I am here is to show solidarity with my people. We are all united. The reason is to show that our community has been under attack and we are here to protect them. Even though these things are happening with a new president, Donald Trump, we are trying to fight back to show that we can do something better.
You are a Trump supporter at an anti-Trump protest. Why?
It’s pretty entertaining. I’m not saying generally, but there’s some hatred here, a lot of intolerance. But there’s also some very nice people here. It would just be nice if I could see everyone be nice, tolerate of each other’s opinions, accepting of the outcome of the election. It’s not just from the left, there’s some on the right as well. Trump supporters need to be respectful.
Trump is very divisive. He's singled out union leaders, targeted individual journalists, said “grab them by the pussy” about women.
Look, Trump is a counter-puncher, and he defends himself. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman, man, whatever. Has nothing to do with sexism or racism. The media likes to portray it as that way.
Who was he targeting when he said on a hot mic that being a star means you can grab women by the pussy?
Look, I am going to quote him. It’s locker room talk. It’s not appropriate, and frankly, if I were him I would be embarrassed about that. But he’s a guy. It’s not a glamorous moment of Trump, it makes him look bad, but it’s a private, private conversation. You can’t hold something like that against them. You shouldn’t be demonizing Trump for what he says, it’s what he does. Has he done anything genuinely racist? No.
His company was sued by the federal government for housing discrimination against black people.
A lot of business people are going to get heat, whether it’s true or not. It’s a lot of crap allegations, even if it goes through. There are plenty of false accusations.
Why are you here today?
I would have been here either way. Trump and Hillary—they’re both garbage. We need to focus on the issues.
Are the dogs a good icebreaker in potentially hostile situations?
Yes, they definitely bring love. And that’s what the world needs. We need to do as much as we can to bring positivity.
I just heard you on the phone with your mom. How is she feeling?
I was a Hillary supporter. My parents are in Oklahoma and they’re on the other side from me, very different views. You have to stay on the side of trying not to talk about it too much. It’s already been a year of that. Four more to go.
Are wolves awesome?
They are. They are actually the coolest creatures on the planet. They are really freaking cool, man.
How did you get here today?
There was a bus of a bunch of students coming down, so we decided to come out and join a couple of protests around. This is my first protest of this size.
Was this the first time you saw people get tear gassed?
Yes. A couple of friends have more experience than I do and they were like, 'Uh, maybe don’t be near that.' So I’m just following them.
That’s probably good advice.
What brings you to DC?
We are outraged. We are quite aware the Trump is not a president who is here to support the African American community and all other marginalized communities across the country. We’re here to stand in solidarity with all these groups, not just blacks, not just migrants. All these groups we know he is going to be targeting.
Things are very chaotic down the block, but you sound so calm.
As much as we have our grievances, we are citizens here. I am not breaking the law, so what do I have to fear? I am holding onto that. The media has not been giving this protest coverage, now it’s starting to make the news, unfortunately. You want a peaceful protest—
Friend, not pictured: We like to be peaceful. That’s what this march primarily is. It wasn’t until law enforcement came in in riot gear, separated our group, incarcerated some of the leaders of the group for no reason at all—we were just marching—that things started to escalate. We haven’t escalated the situation. Furthermore, this is not something uncommon for us. Especially as African Americans and other marginalized groups, we’re used to resistance. We’re used to having to run away from the people that we actually pay to protect us.
MARY: I am a protest artist, I’ve been creating anti-Trump artwork for the last year and a half. In October of 2015 we bought Trump’s original campaign bus off Craigslist and turned it into anti-Trump artwork. One of the things we do is embroider Donald Trump quotes onto flags.
Why do you wear fluorescent yellow?
MARY: The bus doesn’t go faster than 50 and it breaks down all the time, so it’s so we don’t get run over. But as of 10 days ago, it’s taken on this golden shower meaning.
Are you also traveling on the bus?
ANDREA: No, I saw her with tired arms and I said, 'Let me hold the flag with you.'
What brought you out today?
I’m out to bring justice and peace and make people feel welcome. To protest for the poor people on the street and people who need help. [A flash grenade goes off and people run, including me, before walking back to resume the interview.]
You didn’t run.
We have a right to speak our mind. At the end of the day, this is our country.
In unison: Get up, get down! DC is a union town!
Can I take a picture of your T-shirt?
You're here so early.
I’m here to see my guy Donald Trump!
I left Ethiopia because my government is brutal and a dictator. I got political asylum.
What do you think when you hear Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants and refugees?
America is not like this, the way they are talking about. America is for everybody, for immigrants. I am scared for my family, for me. But he is not the only guy in the office. Maybe in the future we change his mind.
What is it about Trump that drew you to him?
First of all he’s very honest. That is the most fundamental virtue of human kind. You have to be honest, then we can trust what you say. Even though some people may not agree with him, he tells the truth.
People call him racist, sexist, all of those things. What do you say to those criticisms?
I would tell people to think with their own minds. A lot of what they’ve heard in the news media is not true.
This is the biggest sign I've seen all day.
Just trying to catch the wind.
So why are you here?
Everyone talks about God, but who really lives for him? I'm out here to provoke, to make people think: Wait, God outside of church?
How does Trump fit into all of this?
It's a crowd.
What made you want to come to DC?
I wanted to experience this. I am very excited about Trump. I think he’s a man of action, and we need that in today’s world. We’ve been sitting idle for a long time. We need to get Americans back to work.
Looking at the protests today, what do you think the next four years are going to be like?
I personally think Donald Trump is not a bad man. Once we get into his presidency, down the road, we will see he is a man for all people. One quote he said today was, 'We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny,' and I believe that is very true.
I oppose Donald Trump. I think that he is going to turn America into a fascist country.
Do you have a history of going to protests?
Like a lot of people, I’ve been doing it a long time. The first inaugural I protested was Richard Nixon, 1972.
I am horrified at what I am seeing, as Abe Lincoln and as Dave Krumland. I don’t know if there’s hope for the Republican party. You just can’t sit still when horrifying things are happening.
What brought you here?
The Women’s March brought me here. I’m a longtime feminist and watched over the years as it kind of fell apart. Then I started reading about the backlash against white feminism and I thought, I got to learn. I have to know, to figure this out. I’ve learned a lot about white privilege and trying to understand other issues. We’ve all got to stand together.
I watched the inauguration speech and I just sat and cried. It’s time to hit the streets again.