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WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Washington turned into a virtual fortress on Thursday ahead of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, while thousands of people took to the streets of New York to express their displeasure with his coming administration.

Some 900,000 people, both Trump backers and opponents, are expected to flood Washington for Friday’s inauguration ceremony, according to organizers’ estimates. Events include the swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and a parade to the White House along streets thronged with spectators.

The number of planned protests and rallies this year is far above what has been typical at recent presidential inaugurations, with some 30 permits granted in Washington for anti-Trump rallies and sympathy protests planned in cities from Boston to Los Angeles, and abroad in cities including London and Sydney.

The night before the inauguration, thousands of people turned out in New York for a rally at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, and then marched a few blocks from the Trump Tower where the businessman lives.

The rally featured a lineup of politicians, activists and celebrities including Mayor Bill de Blasio and actor Alec Baldwin, who trotted out the Trump parody he performs on “Saturday Night Live.”

“Donald Trump may control Washington, but we control our destiny as Americans,” de Blasio said. “We don’t fear the future. We think the future is bright, if the people’s voices are heard.”

In Washington, police cars lined much of Pennsylvania Avenue, the parade route, as workers unloaded crowd control fences from flatbed trucks, erected barricades and marked off pavement with tape.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said police aimed to keep groups separate, using tactics similar to those employed during last year’s political conventions.

“The concern is some of these groups are pro-Trump, some of them are con-Trump, and they may not play well together in the same space,” Johnson said on MSNBC.

Trump opponents have been angered by his comments during the campaign about women, illegal immigrants and Muslims and his pledges to scrap the Obamacare health reform and build a wall on the Mexican border.

The Republican’s supporters admire his experience in business, including as a real estate developer and reality television star, and view him as an outsider who will take a fresh approach to politics.

Bikers for Trump, a group that designated itself as security backup during last summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, is ready to step in if protesters block access to the inauguration, said Dennis Egbert, one of the group’s organizers.

“We’re going to be backing up law enforcement. We’re on the same page,” Egbert, 63, a retired electrician from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

About 28,000 security personnel, miles of fencing, roadblocks, street barricades and dump trucks laden with sand are part of the security cordon around 3 square miles (8 square km) of central Washington.

A protest group known as Disrupt J20 has vowed to stage demonstrations at each of 12 security checkpoints and block access to the festivities on the grassy National Mall.

Police and security officials have pledged repeatedly to guarantee protesters’ constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.

Aaron Hyman, fellow at the National Gallery of Art, said he could feel tension in the streets ahead of Trump’s swearing-in and the heightened security was part of it.

“People are watching each other like, ‘You must be a Trump supporter,’ and ‘You must be one of those liberals’,” said Hyman, 32, who supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election.

Friday’s crowds are expected to fall well short of the 2 million people who attended Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, and be in line with the 1 million who were at his second in 2013.

Forecast rain may also dampen the turnout, though security officials lifted an earlier ban on umbrellas, saying small umbrellas would be permitted.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washigton, and Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Scott Malone, James Dalgleish and Lisa Shumaker)

Ivanka Trump promoting Goya black beans

Twitter screenshot

First daughter Ivanka Trump could find herself in legal hot water after she posted a photo of herself holding up a can of Goya beans under the text of the food company's motto.

Ivanka Trump posted the photo to her Twitter account in support of the company, which has come under fire since Goya's CEO Bob Unanue praised Donald Trump at a White House event last week.

"Mr. President, what can I tell you? I'm so blessed to be here in the most prosperous country in the world, the greatest country in the world. And we're so blessed to have you as our leader, as we continue to build this country and make it — continue to make it the most prosperous nation in the world," Unanue said at the event, a so-called roundtable with Hispanic leaders on July 9.





According to the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch:

An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.

Ivanka Trump wouldn't be the first Trump administration official to violate this law.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was accused of violating the same law in 2017, when she promoted Ivanka Trump's fashion brand during an interview with Fox News in the White House briefing room.

"Go buy Ivanka's stuff is what I would say," Conway said. "I'm going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody; you can find it online."

Conway was never punished for the ethical breach, but then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Conway had been "counseled on the subject."

Conway has also violated the Hatch Act — a law barring federal employees from engaging in partisan politics in their official capacity — at least 50 times, according to a report issued by the good government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington last October.

But the Office of Special Counsel has refused to punish Conway for the violations, about which the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing in June 2019.

"Since OSC's decision in June, it has been very obvious from Conway's continuing violations that she considers herself to be above the law. The White House will not hold Conway accountable for her violations, and instead seems to be encouraging them," Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington executive director Noah Bookbinder said in an October 2019 news release. "It is long past time for the abuses to stop."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.