An Inauguration Eve Scuffle on the D.C. Metro

Passengers board a Red Line Metro train at the DuPont Circle station in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Photo by Erin Wade/BU News Service

By Erin Wade and Rob Carter
BU News Service

WASHINGTON — A woman in a red, floor-length evening gown with her date in tow dashed onto the last Orange Line train at Metro Center on the eve of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The doors slid closed behind her and the train began to move. Drunken revelers and malcontents alike shuffled around the car and settled into their seats, heading home or back to rented rooms just after midnight, preparing for the pomp and protests the next day.

A man wearing a red cap emblazoned with “Make America Great Again” shouted across the aisle at a man in a West Virginia hoodie: “What are you here for?”

“I’m here to protest the protesters,” the man in the West Virginia hoodie responded, chuckling.

“They’re snowflakes. That’s what the protesters are. Snowflakes,” the man in the red cap said. He removed his cap and began waving it in the aisle, smiling widely at his new friend.

At that, two younger men stepped forward, and one approached the man in the hoodie, saying, “Explain your rationale. I want you to explain your rationale in voting for Trump.”

The man in the hoodie insisted that he did not need to explain himself to the younger man and, in a more serious tone, said, “Step away from my wife.” The younger man shuffled back a few steps and continued to engage with the two Trump supporters.

“No, what you don’t understand is that I’m from D.C., so my vote didn’t count,” he said.

“You live in America and you have to accept that [Trump] was elected. He was elected fair and square,” said the other man, holding his red cap in his hand.

“No, do you not understand —”

An older man with white hair and blue eyes, seemingly uninvolved in the conflict, cut off the younger man mid-response to say, “Do you not understand? Get out of people’s faces, will you?”

But the argument did not end there.

The younger man continued to make his appeal, trying to say that votes cast by Washington, D.C. residents do not count in the Electoral College system the same way as they would in a state.

He was wrong — while the district does not currently have a voting representative in Congress, it has had three Electoral College votes since 1961. But the man with the red cap did not try to engage the younger man in a debate on the nuances of Electoral College representation.

Instead, he continued to insist that the younger man simply needed to accept the election results. Now shouting, he repeated over and over, “Do you live in America?”

Nervous passengers began glancing at one another, some interjecting that one side or the other should “just drop it,” while others busied themselves looking at the floor.

A small group of tuxedoed partygoers, one sporting a “Make America Great Again” pin, stared on silently from the end of the train car. The group seemed unconcerned about the altercation but, nonetheless, continued to watch the two men verbally spar.

“OK, you need to get out of this guy’s face and sit down,” said a muscular man with a tightly trimmed buzz cut, who had been sitting quietly until that moment, addressing the younger man.

“No, what I’m telling him is —” the younger man said, reaching out and touching the arm of the man with the buzz cut.

“Don’t touch me,” the man with the buzz cut quickly said, swatting away the younger man’s hand and pushing him backward.

The train erupted. Friends jumped up to defend each other, while others tried to separate both sides and restore some semblance of order.

The younger man, quickly pulled to the outside of the skirmish, began shuffling around the crowd, looking for a lane to continue his shouting match with his new rival.

But, realizing the train had arrived at their stop, the younger man’s friend ushered him through the sliding doors and onto the platform.

Passengers retook their seats and groups began to laugh nervously among themselves or chastise each other for their involvement in the scene.  

At the next stop, the tuxedoed men stepped off the train, still expressionless and silent about the entire event.

The doors closed again and some of the remaining passengers shook their heads, murmuring, “There’s no talking with those people,” and, “You shouldn’t have even engaged.”

The man in the West Virginia hoodie repeated a few of the younger man’s arguments aloud, laughing at each one.

His wife nudged him. The train was pulling into East Falls Church. It was their stop. As he left the Metro car, he looked back, addressing the few remaining passengers.

“And they call us deplorables,” he said.

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