By Rob Carter
BU News Service
Washington — After a schedule full of formality and ceremony, the inaugural balls offer a fun, if still formal, cap to a day that is supposed to be a celebration of the peaceful transition of power. The new president and first lady treat politicians and donors to black-tie parties complete with music, dancing and a slew of performers.
Friday night’s festivities involved three official events for President Trump and the first family. The first two of the night, the Liberty and Freedom Balls, took place inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
President Trump and the first lady, wearing a black tuxedo and white strapless gown, respectively, appeared on stage at each for a short speech and a dance. Sticking with the populist tone of his inaugural address, Trump repeatedly emphasized to his crowds that this was their victory, not just his.
While Trump waved to cheering fans and Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played from speakers inside the venue, the president’s supporters and protesters continued to clash just outside.
Pedestrians who approached the site from any direction eventually encountered a line of police officers standing shoulder to shoulder and blocking any access to the sidewalk or street in front of the building.
On the west side of the building, a group of protesters with their faces covered by black bandanas struck a similar formation across the sidewalk, forcing anyone hoping to attend the event to walk around them and into a dirt patch next to the building.
“Nazis have to walk in dirt,” the protesters shouted at the meticulously well-dressed foot traffic they funneled off of the pavement.
Partygoers had mixed reactions to the protesters. Some sheepishly walked around the group. Others rolled their eyes and offered them a quick quip of derision. Still others insisted on pushing through, although they had limited success.
Eventually one group of attendees knocked the protesters over, which caused a minor scuffle, but not one large enough to make one of the police officers standing 20 yards away feel compelled to break it up.
One of the people who did step in was David Sanders of Lincoln, Illinois. Sanders was wearing a pro-Trump button and a “Make American Great Again” hat. This attire wouldn’t normally stand out among Trump supporters, but Sanders stuck out from the black-tie crowd. He didn’t actually have a ticket to the ball.
“I’m just here to make sure everyone gets in OK,” he said.
Sanders said he didn’t mind stepping in on a few occasions, since “it isn’t like there’s a whole lot else to do.”
Across the street from Sanders, a mother and daughter grinning broadly held a sign that read: “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”
The mother, Leanne Digiacomo, of St. John’s Island, said the slogan was “an oldie, but a goodie.”
Digiacomo served as a stark contrast to the other protesters, whose mood was anything but light and happy. Digiacomo said she was smiling because if she’s “going to put anything out in the world it’s going to be warmth and light and positive energy.”
Trump appeared to be doing the same at his final scheduled event of the evening, the Armed Services Ball. After a brief dance with each other, the Trumps split up and each danced with a member of the armed forces. Trump interrupted his dance several times to raise the hand of his dance partner victoriously toward the crowd.
The president is scheduled to complete his final inaugural ceremony on Saturday, when he plans to attend the National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral.