Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Protesters and supporters alike are in Washington for the official start of Donald Trump's presidency. (Photo by AP)
(King of Prussia) -- After a divisive campaign, election, and transition of power, it may come as no surprise that the official start of Donald Trump's presidency is...divisive.
For many of Trump's supporters, the inauguration marks the beginning of a new--and hopefully better--America. And for his opponents, it's the opening act of a long, hard fight.
A few days before the inauguration, those pro and anti-Trump interests collided at a middle school in Montgomery County.
Daylin Leach, one of Pennsylvania's most progressive state Senators, held a public forum on how to lobby, protest, and otherwise advocate for liberal ideals.
"People were just concerned," Leach said. "They didn't know what to do, so I thought we could offer some advice."
The so-named "resistance forum" was well-attended, with around 800 people packing the Upper Merion Middle School auditorium's seats and aisles to listen to Leach and a panel of liberal advocates.
Speakers named the affordable care act, environmental protections, women's rights to abortions, and a wide range of other policies as being threatened by Trump.
Leach said he believes the losses could go beyond individual laws
"Now, the end of Democracy is not inevitable, but there are warning signs, and there is no law of God that says we always have a democracy," he told the crowd in his opening address. "There are many democracies in the past that did not survive. So how do we resist?"
Such grave proclamations were frequent during the forum, and were met with solemn nods and pledges of action.
On the lawn outside the auditorium, though, a small group decked out in pro-Trump paraphernalia was unmoved.
One man named Jim, who--like most of the protesters--declined to give his last name, wore a shirt emblazoned with the slogan "Proud Member of the Basket of Deplorables."
He said when Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012, conservatives were told to get over it. And he said now, he thinks it's Trump opponents' turn to do the same.
The woman next to him, Jill, echoed the sentiment.
"He hasn't done anything," she said. "He's not even in office yet. And you're going to already boycott him? For what? Because you're a spoilsport? You lost? That's ridiculous."
Jill held a rainbow "LGBTQ for Trump" sign. She said the Trump opponents inside the auditorium are overplaying the potential downsides of his presidency.
She doesn't think much will change--especially socially.
"You know what? He's always been a very big democrat. He's has been a liberal," she said. "If you look back, like in the '80s and '90s, he's always been a liberal."
Most of the protesters--though excited for the new administration--said they didn't have plans to travel to DC for the swearing-in.
But lots of other conservative Pennsylvanians do. David Buell, a member of the Republican State Committee, said this will be his fourth inauguration.
He also made the trip to Washington to see Ronald Reagan, and both Bushes get sworn in.
Buell said no matter who's becoming president, he loves the gravity of the ceremony. And that's why he's so disappointed that this year over 50 legislators--including four Pennsylvania Congressmen--are boycotting.
"It's the signature peaceful transition of power of the highest office in the country. And you know, that warrants respect," he said. "So I think it's very poor discretion...it's bad judgement."
Buell echoed the view that people should at least give Trump a chance.
"I don't know that I've ever seen such a vehement dislike for something that they can't really put their finger on, and they've already doomed his administration and his policies and the country," he said. "You know, our country's stronger than that."
But back inside the auditorium, Leach said he knows exactly why he dislikes Trump.
"He nominates Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, he nominates a whole team of people who are hostile to environmental protection to protect the environment, a labor guy who basically against paying workers and against overtime and against raising the minimum wage," Leach ticked off. "At a certain point, when are you like ok, we gave him a chance and he's blown it?"
Many of the left-leaning people at the forum say they'll be in Washington for inauguration weekend--but not to watch the swearing in.
Like Jill Zipin, with pro-gun-control group Ceasefire PA, they'll be at the Women's march on Washington, a protest scheduled the next day that's expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people.
"The vast size of these marches and protest show to the elected people that there are a lot of people who still care about these issues," Zipin said.
Sister protests are being held around the world, including in Philadelphia.
Support for WITF is provided by:
Support for WITF is provided by: