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Trump supporters, opponents clash outside 'DeploraBall'

By CLARENCE WILLIAMS | The Washington Post | Published: January 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — Anti-Trump protesters jeered and screamed at supporters of the president-elect who were attending the "DeploraBall" at the National Press Club on Thursday night, in one case throwing an object that struck a partygoer in the head.

District of Columbia police closed off a block to motor vehicles as hundreds of demonstrators filled the roadway. Some protesters raised their middle fingers, and shouted obscenities and terms such as "racist" and Nazi" to those attending the celebratory ball on the eve of Trump's inauguration.

A small group of protesters in hoods and black masks set a fire in the center of the street. Another fire was set in a trash can. A different group used a floodlight and stencil to project the phrases "Bragging about Grabbing a Woman's Genitals" and "Impeach the Predatory President" onto the side of the Press Club building. Others inflated a 15-foot-tall white elephant with a banner attached that said "racism."

Officers deployed chemical spray at the crowd multiple times, starting around 9 p.m., after protesters began throwing trash at Trump supporters who were leaving the building.

During an earlier clash, a man was struck in the back of the head by a thrown object, causing him to bleed. About a half-dozen D.C. police officers surrounded him and escorted him behind police lines.

At one point, two men became embroiled in an angry exchange with protesters, with each side shoving and shouting at each other. Police in riot gear separated the men from the crowd, then walked the length of the sidewalk outside the Press Club building to clear protesters away.

The DeploraBall drew attention on social media earlier this month, in part because several of the people who were said to be attending are known for being online provocateurs, contributing to conspiracy-theory websites and sharing views with the alt-right, an extremist movement of mostly young men seeking a whites-only nation.

But the organizers say they are simply fans of the president-elect and in no way connected to the alt-right, which has come under intense scrutiny since a number of its members flashed Nazi salutes at a Washington conference last month.

The ball's name was inspired by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's description of some Trump supporters as "deplorables." It was initially planned for the Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington, Virginia, but that venue backed out.

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