While national news organizations were covering the inaugural parade for President Donald Trump on Friday, riots were taking place just a few blocks away.
Rioters took to the streets to express their frustration with the new president, who drew criticism during the campaign for his rhetoric about women and minority groups. The first riots took place during Trump’s inauguration.
The Associated Press reported that during the inaugural ceremony, police went after approximately 100 rioters who smashed windows of downtown businesses. Police in riot gear used pepper spray from large canisters and eventually cordoned off the protesters, who shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” as a helicopter hovered overhead.
When York Dispatch reporters arrived to the scene on K Street, riot police stood blocking the site of the riots, where glass, clothing and a mangled bike lay in the street. Tom Johnson, from Silver Spring, Maryland, said the majority of protesters in the area were peaceful, but a number threw rocks at the police, who in turn threw concussion grenades to try to calm the situation.
Johnson was sprayed with pepper spray while the riot police attempted to move the protesters back from the area. Fire trucks, ambulances and a forensic team swarmed the scene.
One block away, near Franklin Square, protesters gathered in a group, taking photos near the line of riot police and chanting. While the inaugural parade was taking place near the Capitol, a limo was set on fire near the intersection of K and 13th streets in the city.
Riot police immediately swarmed the area, spraying tear gas to move bystanders back from the fire so a fire truck could make its way through.
The police created a barrier by standing between the fire and the protesters as the fire was put out. Rioters toward the middle and back of the crowd began throwing bricks, sticks, garbage and glass bottles at the officers, who were occasionally hit by the debris.
The police sprayed more tear gas toward the rioters several times when things were thrown or when people attempted to move behind the line, getting too close.
A police officer spoke with some of the protesters, explaining they were just trying to keep the city safe, and they did not want to hurt any of them.
“I know you’re not throwing bricks, I know you’re not setting cars on fire, but you have to understand there are groups out here organizing just to destroy things,” the officer said. “It’s not personal, but we do have to protect ourselves, and we do have to protect our city.”
Behind him, another officer spoke into a megaphone, saying the crowd had the right to protest peacefully and asking them to stop throwing rocks.
Eventually the area calmed down and the crowd thinned out, but piles of garbage were set on fire throughout the city and people continued protesting throughout the evening.
Matt Jansen, a school board member for Spring Grove Area School District and a delegate to the Republican National Convention, said he and his wife were staying in a hotel just blocks from the riots. Though he did not see any of it, he recalled smelling tear gas in the air.
“The riots, those were very disconcerting,” Jansen said. “Seeing the military presence in the streets, it was so surreal.”
The city has said more than 200 people were arrested during the inauguration.