WASHINGTON, D.C.— As attendees poured into the Deploraball, a celebratory event organized by figures in the Alt-Right and their Trump-loving allies, hundreds of protesters gathered outside yelling “Nazi scum” as they walked in.
Around a half-hour before the event was set to begin, anti-fascist activists—particularly the organization Refuse Fascism and protesters in town for marches during the inauguration weekend—huddled on 14th Street outside the National Press Club.
They held signs referring to the tuxedoed guests as “Alt-Reich” and stationed an inflatable elephant with the word “Racism” right in front of the building.
Organizers of the Deploraball, including Mike Cernovich, a divisive figure in the heterogeneous Alt-Right movement, were wary of protesters from the beginning. He informed The Daily Beast via text message that he intended on filming the activity outside beginning at 7:30.
“TBH [to be honest] if this wasn’t my event I’d rather be outside with the drama,” he claimed, seemingly proud of the chaos the event was inspiring.
Cernovich and others were particularly concerned with a leftist organization called DisruptJ20, which appeared recently in an undercover video shot by James O’Keefe discussing plans to disrupt the inauguration.
As police attempted to keep media and protesters off the sidewalk in the area, two men stood with “Trump is Alt-Right With Us,” signs.
Initially, it was unclear whether the two, wearing Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini masks, were part of the revelers or protesters.
The man in the Hitler mask—who referred to himself as “Ponzi Scheme” to The Daily Beast—claimed that he was Jewish and the display was a joke.
“Ninety percent of people got the joke,” he said. “But the crazy thing was that there were a bunch of the Alt-Right people going in who wanted to pose with us. And who were like ‘Heil Trump’ and did the salute.”
In the melee that ensued, bottles were thrown in the direction of both Deploraball attendees and police officers lined up on the sidewalk.
At one point, a trash can was lit on fire and a police officer unceremoniously put it out with a few water bottles.
The animosity from parts of the crowd was also directed at police officers, with one section erupting into a chant of “USA, KKK, how many kids have you killed today?” While police continuously attempted to clear the sidewalk, a beam of light projected phrases on the facade of the National Press Club. One read: “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.” And another said: “Impeach the Predatory President.”
One moment served as a perfect metaphor for the country and media at large when an anti-fascist protester knocked down newspaper stands and dragged them into the street, seemingly to create blockades. Moments after, a protester with peace flowers in his hand picked them up and walked them back over to the sidewalk.
By around 10:30 p.m., a majority of the protesters had disbursed, even as some continued marching away from the area to an unknown location.
Just hours before the inauguration of a deeply unpopular president who lost the popular vote, the protest outside the Deploraball portends a wild weekend, and perhaps a wild four years to come.