WASHINGTON — Prominent white supremacist and self-declared leader of the so-called alt-right movement Richard Spencer was sucker-punched in Washington while giving an interview to journalists, near the parade in honor of newly sworn-in President Donald Trump.
“No serious damage,” Spencer said on Twitter, “I can take a punch.”
He later tweeted that if police can’t protect him and others from such attacks, “we will begin protecting ourselves.”
Spencer seemed to be giving his interview in the midst of a protest, one of several, against Trump in Washington on Friday.
Masked, black-clad protesters carrying anarchist flags smashed windows, lit fires and scuffled with riot police throughout the day as Trump was sworn in, gave his inaugural speech and participated in the parade.
“My only mistake was in giving an interview to someone on a public street while animals tore through DC,” Spender tweeted.
If law enforcement can't protect us from antifa assaults we will begin protecting ourselves.
— Richard ???? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) January 21, 2017
He also took a dig at Trump after the violence he suffered, saying the president “said little about the assaults our people suffered at his rallies. Let’s hope he does something about it.”
Washington police arrested at least 217 people for acts of vandalism committed on the fringe of peaceful citywide demonstrations against Trump’s inauguration.
Just before the parade started, clashes broke out between 400 to 500 stone-throwing protesters and riot police, who responded with tear gas — the second violent flare-up in the space of a few hours.
As Trump’s motorcade wound its way up Pennsylvania Avenue in the parade to the White House, protesters just a few blocks away set a parked limousine on fire after smashing its windows.
An AFP reporter saw National Guardsmen donning helmets and bullet-proof vests, as protesters blocked traffic and set trash cans ablaze — chanting “Not my president” and “We resist President Trump.”
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.”
As the 70-year-old Trump, his supporters and top dignitaries gathered on the National Mall for the swearing-in ceremony, throngs of his opponents also converged on the US capital.
Most of the noisy protests — including those by an array of anti-racist, anti-war, feminist, LGBT, pro-immigration and marijuana legalization groups — were peaceful.
But the protesters were intent on being heard — massing at the city’s Navy Memorial Plaza, along the parade route, and letting out a deafening roar as the presidential limousine known as “The Beast” drove by.
“Not my president!” they yelled, as the pro-Trump crowd in bleachers across the street chanted “USA!”
Protesters along the route waved banners reading: “Try to deserve this office,” “Obama cares, Trump scares,” or “Make America Sane Again.”
Another group unfurled a giant banner reading “Shame” outside the Trump Hotel — right near the spot where the president briefly stepped out of his limo to walk the parade route.
‘No fascist USA!’
Newsham attributed the sporadic outbreaks of violence to “a small group that wanted to disrupt the inauguration.”
“We have significant damage in a number of blocks in our city,” he said, while adding: “It’s a very, very small percentage of those folks who came here to peacefully assemble in our city.”
Black-clad groups with anarchist and anti-fascist banners could be seen moving quickly on the outskirts of the main protests.
Marchers, some red-eyed from pepper spray, chanted: “No deportation, no KKK, no fascist USA!”
Several demonstrators were carrying batons and other weapons, police said, while at least one protester was hurt and was seen receiving treatment for a head wound.
The front windows of some businesses including a Starbucks and a Bank of America were smashed to pieces.
Demonstrations were not limited to the nation’s capital, with protestors taking to the streets in cities including Chicago, New York and Atlanta.
Thousands clogged downtown Chicago to march in front of the city’s highrise condo-hotel bearing Trump’s name. The protest stayed mostly peaceful, with police reporting a minor skirmish that resulted in two arrests.
Julie Vogl, 54, voiced concern over the president’s calls to ban Muslim’s from entering the country and deport undocumented immigrants.
“I hope he proves me terribly wrong,” she said. “We don’t believe in what he said.”
“It’s not the nation we want.”