Young People at Inauguration Witness ‘Peaceful Transfer of Power,’ Voice Grave Disagreement and Protest

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Photos by Stell Simonton

WASHINGTON — As Donald Trump laid his hand on the Bible and spoke the oath that began his presidency, 100 young people from Georgia stood watching on the National Mall, a trip they had planned since May to attend the inauguration — no matter who became president.

They heard President Donald Trump present himself as a man of the people in his inauguration address and vow a special “glorious destiny” for America.

At the same time, protesters in front of the National Archives were chanting to drown out the loudspeakers and the voice of the new president.

Despite some reported police clashes with small groups of protesters, the group from Georgia was witnessing “the peaceful transfer of power,” said Randell Trammel, state executive director of the State YMCA of Georgia. “It’s important for students to see” that, in spite of a campaign filled with vitriol, the country has a peaceful process to choose its leader.

SONY DSCProtest is part of the process, Trammel said.

The State YMCA group at the inauguration included middle- and high-school students who identify as Republicans and Democrats. They were part of a State YMCA youth and government program that brings students throughout Georgia to an annual state youth assembly, where they take roles as legislators, judges, lobbyists and others in a mock state government.

The students don’t all see eye-to-eye.

Among them was Vanessa Mundez from Valley Point Middle School in Dalton, Georgia. “Everyone has their own opinion,” she said, but it’s good to see the opinions of others.

Her concern was that “visitors” to the United States may feel unwelcome now that Trump is president.

img_1127“My grandparents migrated here [from Mexico],” she said.

To Elizabeth Quilliams, a junior from Jefferson High School in Jefferson, Georgia, the inauguration is a defining event for Americans.

“It shows who we are as a people. We’re all connected,” Quilliams said.

At the same time, she said she was concerned that the country will not accept the new president.

Miles Wilkins, a high school student from Suwanee, Georgia, echoed her.

“I’m concerned that [Democrats] are backing away from what they said eight years ago” about the importance of working together across the political divide, he said.

Jeremy Williams of Mountainview High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, said he hopes people will realize that  “this is what it is.”

img_1107“We’re going to have to deal with it for the next four years. Whether I like it or not,” he said.

The carefully modulated tones of the Georgia YMCA group stood in contrast to those who are protesting because they feel the values of Donald Trump are a threat to freedom.

CJ Jensen, 29, from Connecticut held up a large image of a Muslim woman created by artist Shepard Fairey.

“I’m here to protest Trump’s policies that divide and marginalize the most vulnerable people in this country,” she said.

Alyssa Lloyd, 25, of Chicago held up a large sign: “Girls Just Want to Have Fundamental Human Rights.”

“I’m here to show my support for people who feel they are targeted or oppressed,” she said.

Kianna Cooper, 18, of Hagerstown, Maryland, came because she had to “do something.”

SONY DSCShe has friends who are Muslims and immigrants — and they’re scared, she said.

On the other hand, strong supporters of the new president celebrated his inauguration.

Roth Wentzel, 16, of Rochester, New York, — wearing a shirt saying “Build a Wall” — attended the inauguration with his parents and brother. He said he was inspired by Trump’s references to God.

“God is watching over us,” he said.

And Kevin Wells, a fourth-grader from Logan, West Virginia, came with his parents and older sister.

He said of Trump: “I like that he’s going to build the wall. And he’s going to make America great again.”

This story has been updated.