By Arul LouisNew York, Jan 21 : The expected right extremist attacks on the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris did not materialise in the nation’s capital Washington, but leftist groups rioted in Washington state on the west coast and elsewhere turning their ire now on the Democrats.
The protests happened after Biden said in his inaugural address, “We must end this uncivil war.”
Speaking at the Capitol, where a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump’s supporters had stormed the building two weeks earlier, he said: “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything its path.”
The protests signal the difficulties Biden will face from the left also as he tries to heal the polarisation.
His calls for national unity seemed to have angered some of the protesters and the Seattle Times newspaper quoted one of them as saying, “Calling for unity with people who actively want to harm people is disgusting.”
The Oregonian newspaper reported that in Portland they carried sign reading, “We don’t want Biden, we want revenge!”
The violent protests, mainly focusing on immigration, came hours after Biden had issued orders undoing some of Trump’s actions on immigration and said he was sending to Congress a bill that would legalise and give a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, which was not enough for the protesters.
In Seattle in Washington state, protesters, demanding the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), burned an American flag outside its office, the Seattle Times newspaper reported.
They also attacked an Amazon store and a federal courthouse, the newspaper said on its website.
The newspaper said that those involved were “anti-fascist marchers who have demonstrated for months”.
They chanted slogans against both Trump and Biden, it said.
KOMO TV reported that the demonstrators targeted people not in the protest and damaged several vehicles.
In neighobouring Oregon state also, protesters targeted the ICE office and began painting slogans on it and throwing things at the office and police, KPTV television reported.
Federal law enforcement, now under the Biden administration, used teargas and flash grenades to disperse the protesters, the TV said.
Portland protesters also attacked the state Democratic Party headquarters and damaged it while setting fires at several places elsewhere, KPTV reported quoting police.
The Oregonian said that they chanted slogan decrying both Biden and former President Trump.
Protesters from the left, anarchists and others known as Antifa — short for antifascists — have been holding violent protests in Portland, occupying parts of the city and keeping out law enforcement.
Trump blamed the Antifa, a loosely organised group made up mostly of White people, for many of the violent riots in the US over several months in conjunction with the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality against African Americans and racism.
While condemning the violence, Biden had, however, said that the Antifa was not an organisation.
In his inaugural address he referred specifically to “White Supremacists” but not to other groups while calling for confronting and defeating extremism.
The national capital Washington was turned into a virtual armed camp by about 25,000 National Guard troops deployed to protect the inauguration.
But the right-wing protests and attacks did not materialise.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected]