Most of the 230 rioters arrested after violent protests erupted in Washington D.C. following Donald Trump’s inauguration will be charged with felony rioting, federal prosecutors said on Saturday.
The charge carries a punishment of up to ten years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
Thousand of protesters launched a violent rampage just blocks away from the White House as anti-Trump demonstrators smashed store windows, set fire to cars and threw bricks at police.
Heated clashes broke out in McPherson Square and along K Street as hundreds of riot police fired tear gas and drew their nightsticks to contain the masked mob.
As the rioting unfolded, Trump and his family were arriving at a review stand at the White House to see the end of the inaugural parade.
Militant anti-Trump protesters gave a foretaste of what could follow during the violent outbreaks, which has so far seen 217 people arrested and at least six police officers injured.
Just before the parade started, clashes broke out between more than 400 stone-throwing protesters and riot police in McPherson Square – just blocks from the parade in honor of newly sworn-in president.
As Trump’s motorcade wound its way up Pennsylvania Avenue in the parade to the White House, protesters also descended on Franklin Square Park where they graffitied a stretch limo before setting the vehicle ablaze right outside the Washington Post building.
‘Groups of people started gathering around the limo. There was a sense of something going to happen. People were shouting ‘it’s going to blow’. We tried to move them back,’ DailyMail.com columnist Katie Hopkins, who witnessed the ordeal, said.
‘The inauguration parade for the president is just blocks away from where all this is happening.’
Hopkins said the anarchists set things ablaze and started throwing bricks, stones and rocks.
‘These people are here for this purpose – these guys are here for the fight,’ she said.
SWAT team police in full riot gear moved in spraying pepper spray in a bid to disperse the rioters. Among those where hit were Hawk Newsome, leader of Black Lives Matter in New York.
City police chief Peter Newsham said at least 217 people were arrested and would be held overnight before appearing in front of a judge.
‘The charge is rioting,’ he told reporters. ‘Our intention going into this event was to make zero arrests, and unfortunately they forced our hand.’
Meanwhile, prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer was sucker-punched by a masked protester in the street while giving an interview to journalists.
Most of the noisy protests – including an array of anti-racist, anti-war, feminist, LGBT, pro-immigration and marijuana legalization groups – were peaceful.
But some protesters had earlier dragged trash cans into the road before setting them on fire. Vendors selling Trump T-shirts suddenly started offering them as ‘fire fuel, and set them alight.
One police van retreated quickly, reversing a whole city block at high speed after a rock smashed through its window but within minutes reinforcements arrived as a SWAT team in full riot gear blocked K Street and threatened to pepper spray yelling demonstrators.
A rock also hit a Secret Service vehicle forcing it to beat a hasty retreat.
Thugs dressed head-to-toe in black with their faces completely hidden urged the mob to gather pieces of paving stone to use as missiles.
Vandals set the limo afire after totally trashing it smashing its windows and scrawling graffiti on its side, leaving its horn constantly blaring.
Broadcaster Larry King said that while he was in a studio, the windows of his SUV were smashed by protesters.
‘Protestors in DC smashed the windows of my hired SUV & many other cars. I was working in-studio & am ok, but my driver is a bit rattled,’ he tweeted.
A TV truck was also smashed as the mob ignored calls to stop from one section of the crowd who said the new administration wanted them to riot.
‘Please stop. This is not ok,’ pleaded one young woman. ‘This is what they want. They will eat this up.’
The protesters shouted ‘F… Trump,’ calling his new administration ‘fascist’ and ‘illegitimate.’ They brandished placards variously denouncing the new president as racist, homophobic and anti-women.
Police blasted them with tear gas and stun grenades and several women claimed they had been maced as they struggled with tears seeping from their eyes.
Riot police chased the group, some openly promoting anarchy, down 10th and E streets, about a mile from the Mall.
More than 500 people, many wearing masks and handkerchiefs over their faces, marched through the center of DC.
They attacked cars and shop windows, smashing glass panes at a Bank of America branch, a McDonald’s outlet and a Starbucks shop.
Luis Villarroel from Virginia dropped passengers off near the corner of 13th and K Streets NW then parked in front of the Washington Post building.
He got out of his Lincoln MKT limo when he heard loud noises and ‘hundreds of masked men’ coming his way. He said the protesters ‘threw food at him’ and started beating his limo. They threw a flare inside the limo, which is still visible on the seat.
Police managed to funnel the protesters away, but security was stepped up for this afternoon’s Presidential parade.
D.C. police reported that two uniformed officers sustained minor injuries and police vehicles were damaged in the riots.
President Trump began his reign at the White House today greeted by rain and vast empty spaces at his inauguration.
Unlike the inauguration ceremonies for former President Obama where crowds filled the Mall past the Washington Monument, Trump’s acceptance speech was greeted by far less spectators.
As he spoke areas at the back of the Mall were empty and the three second delay in his words reaching those at the back only added to the low key atmosphere.
There were muted cheers and very little chanting to greet the President among the spectators that stood with space to walk freely behind them.
As anti-Trump demonstrators attempted to block the way to the parade walk and smashed up shop windows, supporters and protesters alike flocked to Washington D.C. for inauguration day.
Attendance was not as expected and the National Mall sat half-empty compared to Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration turn out, which saw an estimated 1.8million people on the below freezing day.
The half-empty ceremony, which expected a turn out of 900,000 people, saw temperatures in the 40s and some rain was expected.
Past inaugurations saw higher attendance numbers. According to D.C. Metro’s ridership statistics, only 193,000 trips were taken by 11am on Friday morning, compared to 2013 when 317,000 people had used the public transportation.
In 2009, numbers reached 513,000 and Bush’s 2005 ceremony had 197,000 rides.
Demonstrators came from across the US to voice their objection President Donald Trump – despite being a tiny minority compared to vast crowds there to hail him. Some said they would also have protested Hillary Clinton.
Protests became violent and destructive as shop windows were smashed out in retaliation to Trump being sworn in on the steps of Capitol Hill.
Several thousand inauguration-goers were held up for an extra hour by just a handful of animal rights protesters who blocked an entry point at 7th Street and D600nw and were met by soldiers and police with dogs.
Those who had come to voice their anti-Trump views repeatedly shouted ‘Let us in’ as the rain came down and senior police officials gathered to examine how best to solve the situation.
One protester who held up the lines brandished a placard which read : ‘Queers for human and animal rights.’
Alena Chavez, 20, a student who had traveled from San Francisco, California, said: ‘Trump needs to learn how to respect women, all races and religions and understand that we know he will not make a great President.’
Due to the expected downpour, the National Park Service has revised its policy on umbrellas.
It eased up on the ‘no umbrella’ rule, allowing collapsible ‘totes’-style umbrellas along the parade route and on the National Mall.
On the Capitol grounds regular umbrellas are still prohibited in any ticketed area.
The nation’s soon-to-be president joked about the chance of a downpour. ‘That’s OK,’ Trump told campaign donors at an event Thursday night, ‘because people will realize it’s my real hair.’
‘Might be a mess, but they’re going to see that it’s my real hair,’ he said.
As historic numbers turned out to express their dissent towards the Trump Administration, another group came forward to assert their support of the 45th President.
Bikers For Trump, a self-explanatory organization who aim to ‘promote and coordinate peaceful rallies and events nationwide’ held their own celebration on Saturday while the millions of women marched nearby.
As a counteractive event, the group set up along the inaugural route in Washington, D.C. to rally for their beliefs.