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Inauguration Day Brings Asian-American Trump Supporters, Critics to D.C.

The inaugural festivities will continue Saturday, with a national prayer service and other events, including the Asian American Inaugural Gala.
Image: Washington D.C. motorcycle police lead the inaugural parade for U.S. President Donald Trump after he was sworn in at the Capitol in Washington
Motorcycle police lead the inaugural parade for President Trump after he was sworn in at the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2017.Joshua Roberts / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Tomzemol Alam, a 22-year-old Muslim American from Brooklyn, New York, decided to trek to D.C. late Thursday night to take in President Donald Trump’s inauguration. It was a last minute decision.

As expected, he and a friend couldn’t find a hotel, but that didn’t matter — the two slept in the car, Alam said, and then headed to The National Mall Friday morning to watch Trump become the 45th president of the United States.

“He’s going to make a change in America,” Alam, donning a Trump skicap, told NBC News.

Alam was among the tens of thousands who stood under overcast skies in The National Mall facing the Capitol Building as Vice President Mike Pence and Trump took the oaths of office around noontime. The crowd seemed thinner than in years past, officials told NBC News.

As a light drizzle began to fall, Trump told the crowd in his inaugural address that Friday’s ceremony was about transferring power from Washington D.C. back to the American people.

A luncheon hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies followed the swearing in, and later in the afternoon participants of the inaugural parade made their way up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

In parts of the city, protesters clashed with police, which resulted in at least 217 arrests, according to police. Other demonstrations were peaceful.

Trump and Pence were expected to take in three inaugural balls, including the Freedom Ball, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Shortly after 10 p.m. Eastern time, Trump and his wife and Pence and his wife appeared at the Freedom Ball and danced to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”

Among the Freedom Ball attendees was Kun Kim, a plastic surgeon from Atlanta, who decided just two days ago to make the 10-hour trip to D.C. with his son by car.

“This has been a very emotional campaign season for me,” Kim, one of the founding members of Korean Americans for Trump, told NBC News.

As he waited in line with his 11-year-old son Evan to take an inaugural photo, Kim said he had been behind Trump even before he announced his candidacy. He added that this was the first election he really got involved in by campaigning for Trump.

“I was just tired of eight years of socialism, of the left-leaning politics of the Democratic party,” Kim said.

Harmeet Dhillon, Republican national committee woman from California, attends the Freedom Ball with husband Sarvjit Randhawa.
Harmeet Dhillon, Republican national committee woman from California, attends the Freedom Ball with husband Sarvjit Randhawa.Chris Fuchs / NBC News

For Harmeet Dhillon, a Sikh American who serves as California’s Republican national committeewoman, this was the first presidential inauguration she ever attended.

“The significance of it to me as an American citizen is the celebration of the peaceful transition of power in our country,” Dhillon, who also came to the Freedom Ball with her husband, told NBC News. “And I think it’s a tremendous honor to participate and witness it regardless of your party or background or who won the election frankly.”

Ethan Dang, a 16-year-old high school junior from Washington state, was one of those participants.

Dang, a Vietnamese American, arrived Wednesday afternoon in D.C. with around 19 classmates from Bellevue High School. While he disagrees with Trump’s plan to build a wall across the U.S. and Mexico border, Dang told NBC News that going against Trump’s presidency at this point would be useless.

“I wasn’t happy about the outcome, but I’m not going to fight against President Trump,” he said.

Image: Demonstrators march on the street near a security checkpoint
Demonstrators march on the street near a security checkpoint inaugural entrance, on Jan. 20, 2017 in Washington, ahead of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration. Protesters pitching diverse causes but united against the incoming president are making their mark on Inauguration Day.Jose Luis Magana / AP

While many, wearing red caps with Trump’s signature phrase “Make America Great Again,” came to celebrate his victory, others stood along the sprawling two-mile National Mall to protest his presidency.

Hashim Khan, 18, took a different tack.

Holding a sign that read “I am a Muslim, ask me anything!” Khan greeted passersby with a bright smile and answered their questions about the Islam.

“The way to spread love and our message of peace and love is through knowledge,” Khan told NBC News.

By around 1 p.m., he said about seven people had come up to him to ask questions. One was how Muslims felt about Trump becoming president.

“Our answer to that is since the American people elected him, it’s our job as Muslims and as Americans to support that,” Khan said. “We’re supposed to support Trump and we’re going to try our best. We’re going to pray everyday that he does the best for the nation.”

"The way to spread love and our message of peace and love is through knowledge.”

But Khan said some people did harass him and others who attended with him.

“Some just wanted to yell at us for being Muslim, but we expected that when we came out here,” he said.

Those people were the exception, Khan added.

“The majority of people have been so lovely to us,” he said. “They gave us hugs and took pictures.”

RELATED: For American Muslims for Trump’s Founder, the Inauguration Is a ‘New Beginning’

The inaugural festivities will continue here Saturday, with a national prayer service in the morning and other balls and galas later in the day, including the Asian American Inaugural Gala.

And protests are expected to draw tens of thousands of demonstrators to the nation’s capitol, one of the most talked about being the Women’s March on D.C.

Image: Protesters chant slogans.
Protesters chant slogans during Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017.Moe Zoyari / Redux Pictures

Sister rallies are also slated for more than 150 cities around the world. Organizers say they’re using the occasion of Trump’s swearing in to call awareness to women’s rights issues and the fight for women’s equality.

George Leing, Republican national commiteeman from Colorado who said he was attending the Freedom Ball, told NBC News that everyone is entitled to their own views on Trump.

“That’s also part of America,” he said.

RELATED: ‘In This Together’: Former House Candidate Lindy Li to Speak at Women’s March on Philadelphia

But echoing what others who voted for and support Trump have said this week, Leing hopes Americans give Trump a chance.

“Why don’t we all see what’s going to happen without this prior judgement,” Leing said.

Dhillon, the California Republican national committeewoman, said one of Trump’s toughest challenges will be to bridge what she called a very divided country that she said he inherited.

“I think his biggest asset is that he has an ability to communicate directly to the American people,” Dhillon said. “That’s how he got elected. That’s a powerful tool.”

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