WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump skipped town for the weekend, but that didn’t stop demonstrators from making him the focus of competing rallies in the nation’s capital that highlighted the stark political divisions in the United States.
Kicking off a Saturday of diverse demonstrations, about two dozen protesters gathered in Lafayette Square, a park just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, to demand that Trump take strong action against Russian leader Vladimir Putin in retaliation for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
They carried signs that said “We’re not PUTIN up with it!” and “Protect American Democracy.” After their rally, marchers headed to the home of the Russian ambassador a few blocks away.
Nearby, on the National Mall close to the Washington Monument, about 500 Trump supporters assembled for an all-day demonstration and concert, though organizers predicted that number would grow as the day progressed.
The event’s website appealed for people to “help send a message to Congress, the media & the world” that “we stand united to defend American culture & values.” The pitch to would-be participants: “If you stand for patriotism and freedom, this rally is for you!”
Trump was spending the weekend at his golf club in New Jersey before attending the U.N. General Assembly next week.
Later, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, juggalos, as supporters of the rap group Insane Clown Posse are known, rallied and readied for a concert. They are pushing their demand that the FBI rescind its classification of juggalos as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.”
The rap duo has developed an intensely devoted fan base over the course of a 25-year career, and some fans held signs that said, “Music is Not a Crime.”
A 2011 report by the Justice Department’s Gang Task Force placed the juggalos, who favor extensive tattoos and outlandish face paint, in the same classification as overtly violent gangs such as the Bloods and the Crips.
The rap group and its fans claim to be a nonviolent community subject to largely class-based discrimination by law enforcement. The band, along with the ACLU, sued the FBI in 2014 seeking to change the classification but with little success so far.