The Washington, D.C. Council is considering scaling back the ceremonies surrounding President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20 due to concerns over protests and the District’s excessive spending.
According to an article in The New Yorker, hundreds of thousands of protesters are planning demonstrations for the days leading up to the inauguration. One group, the anti-war and civil rights protest group ANSWER coalition, has already received 7,000 commitments from citizens to protest, while civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton is planning to organize a demonstration in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Jan. 14 — just six days before the inauguration.
City organizers are also bringing in 3,200 law enforcement officials and 7,000 national guardsmen from across the country to help direct traffic and control crowds.
Chris Geldart, who is running D.C.’s preparation for the inauguration as the director of the District of Columbia’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said law enforcement is anticipating protests in response to the inauguration.
“Just looking at what’s happening across the country, we may see more folks come out and exercise their first amendment rights,” Geldart said. “We have plans for that. We plan for that for every inauguration.”
Geldart met with the President-elect’s committee Nov. 18 to discuss preparations for the inauguration and to ensure agencies involved, including security and media personnel, understand their responsibilities before the event. He noted the bulk of city expenditure on inauguration day was devoted toward crowd control and security.
“We made sure there wasn’t any additional spending in there that didn’t line up with the schedule of tasks we had done for prior inaugurations so we weren’t being wasteful with funding,” Geldart said.
Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) suggested during a Nov. 8 pre-legislative session that the council eliminate or reduce city funding for a stand to be constructed on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Ave NW. The glass-enclosed stand — which seated 2,000 people, including elected officials, during the inauguration in 2013 — incurred a cost of about $342,000 for the city.
Silverman’s Communications and Community Outreach Coordinator Ashley Fox said this measure stemmed from nonpartisan concerns about extravagant spending on the inauguration.
“Excessive spending has been a topic of discussion for several years now,” Fox said. “I think at the council there’s generally a shift in discussions in whether or not we’re being fiscally responsible, making sure we’re using taxpayer dollars as effectively as possible.”
The District is expected to spend about $29.9 million on the inauguration and attract between 800,000 and 900,000 spectators to its events, which include an inaugural ball, luncheon, parade and the formal swearing-in of the president. Congress has allotted the District roughly two-thirds of the expected total expenditure, but the D.C. Council will likely request reimbursement of an additional $10 million in fees.
In the District, residents voted heavily democratic in the 2016 election, in which Trump received only 4 percent of the votes compared with Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 93 percent share of the D.C. vote.
Fox noted that the District’s Democratic leanings could possibly affect the council’s desire to cut back spending on the inauguration.
“To foot the bill for a really big celebration that is not necessarily reflective of District residents’ ideals, values or votes was something that was part of that conversation as well,” Fox said. “We should best serve District residents so that we make sure we are working in their interests.”
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