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Photo Blog: 'Post' photographers make photos amid pepper spray, inauguration action

Editor's note: more photos have been added to the gallery.

While many students in Athens probably spent their weekends going out or relaxing, some Post photographers couldn’t bear to sit still during such a big weekend. They had the urge and the desire to document important moments. They had to be there.

So, photographers Matt Starkey, Lauren Bacho, Patrick Connolly and Liz Moughon all went to Washington, D.C. to cover Trump’s inauguration and Women’s March.

The inauguration itself went as planned, with Trump supporters and protesters alike attending to peacefully display their views of the new president. Post photographers documented the moments following the swearing in and protesters mixed in with Trump supporters.

Later, as rioters burned a car and smashed windows on the other side of town, Post photographers rushed into the riot zones — some were pepper sprayed even. They were separated and put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of photos, but ultimately were reunited safely.

The following day, the Women’s March set a different tone. People came by the hundreds of thousands to march, breaking Metro riding records, with an estimated attendance of 500,000. Some are saying now it was the largest demonstration in U.S. history. Our photographers endured a lot for the sake of documenting all sides of what will probably end up being a pretty historic moment for America.

Here are each photographer’s favorite images from the weekend and the stories behind them.

Pat Connolly — photographer and senior multimedia producer

My favorite photo from the inauguration came moments after Trump was sworn in as president. Matt and Liz had been separated from us and were able to get through the security checkpoint in time for the swearing-in ceremony. Lauren and I spent upwards of two-and-a-half hours in a congested security line filled with mostly protesters, but some Trump supporters as well. While it was tiring and frustrating to stand for so long, we were able to document things happening around us while in line. Protesters were chanting and holding their signs; Trump supporters engaged in occasional dialogue with them. In hindsight, I was thankful to be in line around noon when he was sworn in. It allowed me to capture the supporters behind us cheering and, ultimately, the above celebratory moment between two Trump supporters from Baltimore. They were evidently very happy with the new president.

Lauren Bacho — photographer 

My favorite image from the weekend is one I took in the middle of the riots the night of President Trump’s inauguration. We had been photographing a street fire for a little while when riot police started to move in.

They immediately started spraying pepper spray at everyone near the fire. Press and protesters were running in every direction. At first I started to run away — fight or flight instincts kicking in — but then my photojournalism instincts kicked in, and I ran back toward the pepper spray.

I got sprayed in the face, which caused a nosebleed, but I managed to make the above image. All and all, going to D.C. for the inauguration was completely worth it. Covering the riots was the most photojournalistic thing I’ve had the opportunity to photograph to date.

Matt Starkey — photographer 

I took one of my favorite images during the Women's March on Washington on Saturday. My frame of mind for the march was to sift through the crowd to find interesting moments. I was walking against the flow of traffic when I saw a little girl on her mom’s shoulders across the crowd. I thought it was a cute picture, so I started to make my way over. I chose to shoot this shot with a 200mm lens (a fairly long lens for street photography) because if kids notice the photographer they'll normally stare it down or gesture at it. I was rewarded for my discretion when she raised her fist as people around her started to cheer together. I feel like this photo encapsulated the spirit of the Women’s March since the people seemed a lot more unified and determined than the rioters the night before.

Liz Moughon — photographer and photo editor 

I chose my favorite photo not only by its aesthetic, but by its story. All weekend I witnessed animosity between two political sides. There were Trump supporters, donned in patriotic colors and ball gowns cheering on our new president, and protesters destroying trash cans, starting fires and demanding justice. When the police started pushing back against protesters on inauguration evening and pepper spraying anyone who wouldn’t move, Jeff Leonard, a Trump supporter from Las Vegas, somehow got caught in the middle of the riot and took a hit. He cried out in agony, claiming he couldn’t see anymore. Julia da La Silva, a protester from Atlanta, helped him to a corner safely, comforted him while others poured milk on his eyes, and stayed with him until he was able to open his eyes and blink. “Why did you help me?” Leonard gasped through twinkling milk-stained eyes. Julia chuckled and said he needed help, so why would she not. While our country becomes more divided, it is comforting to know there are still good Samaritans who believe in peace despite borders. At the end of the day when someone needs help, our human instinct is to help, despite our political affiliation — or any affiliation.

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