WASHINGTON, D.C. — The streets around the White House are piled high with barricades and bleachers, temporary fencing, Secret Service members and law enforcement outfitted to the teeth with safety gear as the nation’s capital prepares for the inauguration of Donald Trump on Friday morning.
The scene in the Lafayette Square area in front of the White House was surprisingly low-key, locals said, given that the weather was relatively mild — no snow and the temperature well above 40 degrees.
On Thursday evening, as the Obamas spent their last night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a small but noisy group of supporters stood just outside the barricades with “Thank You Obama” signs. They cheered and “O-ba-ma” and “Yes we will” as passersby alternately clapped along or snickered.
Two men in President-elect Donald Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” red hats sat on a bench nearby, watching the pro-Obama chorus line, without comment. Elsewhere along the H Street border of the White House which was blocked off by bleachers and temporary fencing, a small group of women walked up to the edge of the fence and began to applaud. “I promised myself I would do this,” one woman told her companions.
Susan Thompson-Gaines, a sign language interpreter from Arlington, Va., and her husband David Gaines rearranged their work schedules Thursday to take part in the planned “Thank You Obama” rally outside the White House. But it became so big that it had be moved to a new location because organizers didn’t have the proper permits. Thompson-Gaines and Gaines stayed outside the White House with her hand-painted sign.
“That’s what we came to do,” she said, adding that she felt she owed it to the nation’s 44th president to show her gratitude.
A few blocks away, a small group of anti-Trump protestors gathered in McPherson Square, along with about two dozen cops on bikes and motorcyles. The No-Trump-ers passed out fliers urging locals to “take to the streets to bring Washington to a halt until Trump leaves.” After a few rounds of chanting “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA,” the group moved off down K Street in the opposite direction from the White House.
In addition to barricades, the streets of downtown Washington were clogged with tour buses bringing in faithful Trump supporters and other groups. A double-decker bus for Nancy and Udean’s Christian Tours, based in Newton, N.C., was parked outside the Loews Madison on 15th Street NW, making for challenging traffic flow.
There was no missing the clusters of women walking around taking in the sights in advance of Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, which is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of women to the National Mall.
As the countdown to the official transfer of power hit the 12-hour mark, some locals were wistful about saying goodbye to the Obama family.
Taxi driver Faiq Safi, who came to the U.S. 12 years ago from Afghanistan and is a naturalized citizen, is no fan of Trump’s (“He’s just come to make our lives more miserable”) and is sad to see the Obama era come to a close.
“He was the greatest president,” Safi said. “He was a nice guy — a gentleman.”