Americans first began with a relish to protest their incoming presidents in 1829 when John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, refused to attend the inauguration of his successor, Andrew Jackson, as did many congressmen and senators.
(His father, John Adams had chosen not to attend the inauguration of his successor, Thomas Jefferson, but that was mostly because he was simply dying to get the hell out of Washington. He had spent large parts of his one term in office conducting the affairs of state from his home in Quincy, MA.)
Quincy Adams/Jefferson was, if you can imagine, a far nastier contest than Trump/Clinton: Jackson's wife Rachel fell ill and at length died after suffering through a torrent of viscious, unrelenting attacks against her virtue and character. (Andy never forgot. Nor forgave.)
Inaugurals are supposed to be celebratory affairs not particularly marked by angry demonstrations. But through the years there have been ample and notable exceptions that served to emphasize the nation's differences rather than its commonalities. They haven't all brought us together.
In the run-up to Donald Trump's Presidential inauguration, The National Park Service granted demonstration permits to at least 28 groups. They were expecting more than 350,000 protesters in all, including about 200,000 for the "Women's March on Washington" planned for the next day. The latter drew approximately 2,000,000 by some third-party estimates, dwarfing the crowd that had gathered to watch the swearing-in, much to the new President's chagrin.
Most of the demonstrations were orderly, but six police officers were injured and 217 protesters arrested in several ugly street clashes in downtown Washington. Police in New York, Dallas, Chicago, Portland and Seattle arrested scores at demonstrations in those cities as well.
Protests also took place beyond America's borders in Australia, London, Hong Kong, Berlin and the West Bank.
In another form of protest, one-third of House Democrats boycotted the inauguration entirely.
Anti-Trump forces may have been heartened by this outpouring of opprobrium, but the truth is the day wasn't that much out of the ordinary for a US Presidential inauguration.
Some cite the 1853 swearing-in of Franklin Pierce as the first inaugural to draw an official protest, by a group of unemployed workers.
Wilson, 1913, East Portico.
Obviously, front-burner issues present greater incentives for crowds to show up and grab some of the spotlight, even if that issue has little actual direct connection to the president-elect. When there's nothing going on the crowds are less inclined to turn out. After all, January in D.C. is cold.
The day before President Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913, as many as eight thousand women suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in what one inaugural historian said was likely the first large-scale inauguration protest. But Wilson wasn't the target. He supported the women's suffrage movement, if not overly enthusiastically, and worked for legislation to grant women the vote. Which was stronger support than that offered by many.
James Bendat, who wrote the book Democracy's Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President 1789-2013, said the women, who had a parade permit, were "pushed, spat upon, and beaten up" by irritated onlookers. The incident led to the firing of the capital's police chief. Four years later, the women were allowed to march in the inaugural parade, for the first time. Women gained the vote in 1920.
From the '20s to the '60s inaugurals tended to be orderly. What with three big wars, the death of FDR, the stolidity of the '50s and the can-do idealism born of Kennedy and Camelot, people weren't in a protesting mood.
Noteworthy, during that period, Roosevelt's 4th swearing-in took place on the rear balcony of the White House, and Kennedy's famously and stirringly memorable inaugural address was one of the quickest on record. Good feelings all around.
Kennedy, 1961. "Ask not what your country can do for you..." Under 14 minutes, fourth-shortest inaugural address in history.
Richard Nixon, inheritor of a hugely unpopular war, would not be so lucky. Americans had learned the art of protesting by the end of the '60s. They didn't just march. Anti-war demonstrators threw burning miniature flags and stones at police during Nixon's 1969 inauguration.
According to The Boston Globe, about 500 people participated in the protests. The paper noted it was first time in recent history that an inauguration fomented such a large public demonstration. And Vietnam wasn't even Nixon's war then; he ran for office as the man with the plan to end it.
According to another news report, as many as 5,000 demonstrators converged on a site where a reception for Vice-President-elect Spiro Agnew was being held, and U.S. Park Service police used horses, for the first time in a Washington demonstration, to drive them back (with mixed results).
Firecrackers were hurled at the horses, which reared up and then began dropping manure.
Agnew's guests began arriving and had to walk, in their formal attire and finery, a red-carpeted gauntlet from the street to the venue, while enduring a steady barrage of shouted epithets, hurled rocks and, yes, steaming handfuls of horse manure. Resourceful mob.
As police attempted to move the protestors back, they lost control and, as will happen, began clubbing people. Several protestors were trampled by the mounted horses.
One over-enthusiastic officer charged wildly into the crowd, on foot, before suddenly and belatedly realizing he had surrounded himself with demonstrators, with no other officers in sight. They proceeded to remove his helmet, gun, badge, and nightstick and then began pummeling him with their fists before some of his fellow officers realized his plight.