With a 35-word oath, Donald Trump today became the 45th president of the United States and offered a dark vision of his nation and the world.
His 16-minute inaugural speech on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC closely resembled his thunderous addresses from the campaign trail.
“The American carnage stops right here, right now,” he said. “From this day forward a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward it’s going to be only America first. America first.
“Together we will make America strong again, wealthy again, proud again, safe again and, yes, together we will make America great again,” Trump promised.
That brought a wave of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chants from a sea of red caps, although white tarpaulins protecting the grass of National Mall revealed vast gaps in the crowd.
With protesters descending in droves for tomorrow’s Women’s March on Washington, which is expected to comfortably dwarf Trump’s inaugural crowd, there were signs all over the city of the vicious and divisive election battle.
Long before dawn, protesters carrying placards saying “fight fascism”, “not my president”, “no Trump, no KKK, no racists, go away” were fanning through the largely deserted streets. There were tussles with police in riot gear as groups tried to block the entrances to the Capitol grounds, while some protesters managed to pass security and gain entry.
As the inaugural ceremony was under way, police deployed pepper spray after a group of protesters smashed store and car windows.
On one level, much about the day was familiar, the comfort of a ceremony that has taken place every four years since George Washington’s first inauguration on 30 April, 1789. It began with a church service at St John, Trump stepping out in his standard uniform of navy suit and red tie; his wife Melania in a powder blue suit with echoes of Jackie Kennedy.
After church it was coffee at the White House with the outgoing Obamas, then the shared ride to Capitol Hill, and the swearing-in, replete with drum and bugle, the presidential anthem Hail to the Chief and the 21-gun salute.
The solemn occasion was to be lightened during the day with the inaugural parade to the White House and three evening balls attended by the Trumps.
Trump took the oath of office with his left hand resting on two Bibles held by his wife – his own bedside volume and a second more historic edition.
That was the Bible used in 1861 at the first inauguration of a president who knew a thing or two about national disunity, Abraham Lincoln. It also marked a rare note of continuity between Trump and his predecessor, Obama having used the same Bible in both his inaugurations.
In his speech, Trump claimed his victory was the product of a movement “like none ever seen in the world”, that would return power from the self-interested politicians to the American people.
“For too long, a small group in the nation’s capital has reaped the benefits while the people bore the costs. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed,” he said.
He painted a picture of a devastated country he had inherited, full of mothers and children trapped in poverty in the inner cities and “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation”.
He paid lip-service to those who have criticized him for emboldening racism and white supremacy, expressing a call for diversity through the prism of nationalism. “When you open your heart to patriotism there is no room for prejudice,” he said.
“A new national pride will heal our division. It’s time to remember that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.”
At the end of his speech, Trump stood behind bulletproof glass beside the podium, right arm punching the air.
Obama and his family made their way to the East Front of the Capitol, where a Marine Corps helicopter whisked them to Andrews air force base on the way to the California resort of Palm Springs.
At least 60 Democratic senators and members of congress, and a host of celebrities boycotted the events.
Also absent was Vladimir Putin, though the Russian president was very much there in spirit. The full extent of the Kremlin’s meddling in the election is not, and may never be, known.