US President-elect Donald Trump denounced Americans who protested against his election and hours later praised them on Friday, underscoring contradictions that have raised questions about his leadership style.
“Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!” Trump tweeted early on Friday. It was a sharp shift in tone from his tweet hours earlier dismissing the demonstrators in eight cities as “professional protesters, incited by the media.”
Watch: Protests erupt across US against Donald Trump
The contradictory tweets were further evidence of Trump’s mixed messages since he announced his candidacy 17 months ago. After Clinton conceded defeat early on Wednesday, he took a far more conciliatory tone than he had often displayed during his campaign and promised to be a president for all Americans.
Anti-Trump demonstrators voiced concerns his presidency, due to start on Jan. 20, would infringe on Americans’ civil and human rights. They cited his campaign promises to restrict immigration and register Muslims, as well as allegations the Republican Trump, a former reality-TV star, sexually abused women.
In various cities, marchers chanted slogans including, “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!” and carried signs reading, “Impeach Trump.” White supremacist groups including the Ku Klux Klan have praised Trump’s election and some civil rights advocacy groups have reported a spike of attacks on minorities following Trump’s Tuesday victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump has rejected the KKK’s support.
PLEDGE OF RESISTANCE
Tensions were high on Thursday night in Baltimore where Mark Patro, 60, and his partner, Yanni Stavropoulos, 39, marched in an anti-Trump demonstration carrying the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement.
“We’re here to bring to Donald Trump’s attention that we don’t support his rhetoric,” said Patro, a draftsman. “We intend to resist, and I believe that resistance will continue for many Americans throughout his presidency.”
The crowds on the streets of eight cities including New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, on Thursday were diverse in their ethnic makeup and largely made up of young adults and college students. One measure of young Americans’ feeling for Trump: A poll by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion prior to the election showed that some 66 percent of young U.S. adults aged 18 to 35 thought Trump should have dropped out of the race following the October release of a 2005 video in which he was seen talking about groping women.
“This antipathy towards Trump is very real and very deep-seated,” said Joshua Dyck, an associate professor of political science at the school. “I suspect that protests, especially on college campuses, will be a more or less permanent feature of his presidency.”
With the country evenly divided, many voters were shocked by the result given that opinion polls failed to predict Trump’s triumph. The Republican Party also managed to maintain its majorities in both houses of Congress in Tuesday’s vote.
MORE PROTESTS PLANNED
More anti-Trump demonstrations were planned for the weekend in cities including New York and Los Angeles, and a group calling itself “#NotMyPresident” scheduled an anti-Trump rally for Washington on January 20, Inauguration Day, when the New York real-estate developer formally succeeds President Barack Obama. Thursday’s gatherings were generally smaller in scale and less intense than Wednesday’s, and teenagers and young adults again dominated the racially mixed crowds.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Friday acknowledged the tight race with Clinton, but said anti-Trump protesters had to accept the election results. He pointed to Trump’s call for unity and meetings on Thursday with Obama and Republican leaders as reasons for reassurance.
“Everyone needs to just take a deep breath, take the weekend … count our blessings, and let’s come back on Monday,” Priebus said. Security barricades were in place around some of Trump’s highly visible properties, including the newly opened Trump International Hotel near the White House and in Trump Tower on New York’s Fifth Avenue, where he lives.
Trump’s base of support in the election was the broad middle of the country, from the Heartland through the Rust Belt, with voters in states that had long supported Democrats shifting their support to Trump after he promised to renegotiate trade deals with other countries.
In Washington two Trump supporters carried signs reading: “All We are Saying is Give Trump a Chance”. A protest in Portland, Oregon, late on Thursday grew violent with demonstrators throwing objects at police and damaging cars at a dealership. Police arrested at least 26 people.
In Los Angeles, police arrested about 185 people, mostly for blocking roadways or being juveniles out past curfew, during a Thursday night march, police spokeswoman Norma Eisenman said in a telephone interview. One officer was hospitalized for injuries suffered during the protest, she said.