Trump inauguration draws Inland Northwest revelers, dissidents to D.C.
Spokane’s Monika Wachowiak cast her lot with Donald Trump early in the campaign, caucusing for the New York real estate mogul at the downtown library last February.
On Friday morning, the 36-year-old Brooklyn native will watch the nation’s 45th president take the oath of office from the “orange zone,” an area on the southwest lawn behind the U.S. Capitol Building.
“I want to be a part of history. With Trump becoming president, America is going to see such change,” Wachowiak said by phone Thursday, preparing for a reception with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, on the eve of Trump’s first day in office.
“When you put so much work into something, you want to see the end of it,” Wachowiak said.
The property manager, social media guru and GOP precinct committee officer will be one of hundreds of thousands of Republican revelers expected to pack the National Mall for the inauguration, scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. local time Friday. Estimates from security agencies have placed the expected number of attendees between 700,000 and 1 million people.
The larger figure includes estimates of protesters, who have scheduled a march on the capital Saturday to voice their displeasure with America’s selection as its next leader, decrying his divisive comments about women and minorities on the campaign trail.
Ron Nilson, president and CEO of manufacturing company Ground Force Worldwide in Post Falls, secured tickets for the event through Rep. Raul Labrador’s office, he said. Nilson hoped the focus of the inauguration would be on bringing the country together after a hard-fought campaign.
“I would hope we would see a united nation and see some healing take place,” Nilson said. “There’s a bunch of people who don’t want to support this peaceful transfer of power.”
Nilson said Trump wasn’t his first choice to be president, but he supported the candidate in November. He said fears of Trump’s political opponents are overblown.
“I’m willing to bet right now, all those people making this big deal, no different than when we woke up, all the naysayers were worried about (Barack) Obama’s election,” Nilson said. “It isn’t one man that makes all the decisions in this country, it’s a whole system.”
Nilson called attending the inauguration “an honor” and said he believed Trump would work to restore America’s prestige on the world stage.
Wachowiak is trying to broadcast her inaugural experience to Republicans in Spokane by posting videos and photos to her social media profiles. She moved to the area just after the windstorm in November 2015 and quickly became active in local politics, which were very different from her childhood home in New York.
“We were in a blue city, in a blue state, and I was Jewish and Republican,” she said.
Wachowiak spent most of her fall campaigning for Bill Bryant, the Republican candidate for governor, rather than focusing on Trump, though she made some phone calls. When Bryant announced publicly he wouldn’t vote for Trump, it put Wachowiak in the awkward position of persuading Trump supporters to continue to back Bryant.
“It was very difficult,” Wachowiak said. “Republicans, and especially Trump supporters, are a little bit stubborn. But I love them.”
Travis Garske, owner of Travis Pattern & Foundry, a Spokane aluminum manufacturing company and his wife, Paula, got tickets to the inauguration from McMorris Rodgers’ office. He said he’s hopeful Trump follows through on promises to create tariffs to boost American manufacturing businesses.
“Trump gets things done,” Garske said.
On Saturday, protesters hope to shift the focus of the weekend to Americans who didn’t support Trump’s unorthodox – but successful – campaign. A women’s march will be held in Spokane, but several local activists decided participating in Washington state wasn’t enough.
Leslie Libey is headed to Washington D.C. to march Saturday. The key issue for her is the Supreme Court nominations and the impact they will have on legislation.
“I’m a white woman in my early 30s,” she said. “This is the first time I’m faced with potentially repressive legislation.”
She was so concerned about the possible impacts of those nominees that she helped organize Spokane’s march.
“It’s just like decades of progress being erased,” she said. “Like the 20th century never happened.”
And although Trump’s election was the catalyst for her action, she said the issues she’s marching for are bigger than a single politician.
Ileai Perry echoes Libey. For her the issue isn’t so much Trump’s presidency as it is defending human rights. Perry also will be in Washington D.C. on Saturday marching.
“That’s why I’m marching,” she said. “For the most marginalized people in our society.”
Although Perry considers herself politically active, she said this year she was galvanized in a way she hasn’t been before.
“This is probably the biggest thing that I’ve ever done. This is my first march in D.C.”
Perry said some of her friends are gay and immigrants. Seeing their fear after Trump’s election pushed her into action.
“They were crying and expressing fear for what this would mean for their rights,” she said.
Whitworth University student Josiah Van Wingerden contributed to this report from Washington D.C.