WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – The inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump is less than 24 hours away, and the signs are everywhere.
The sprawling site of the ceremony, the U.S. Capitol, is plastered with red tape and diced up by temporary fences ahead of the ceremony.
“Area Closed” placards are posted every few feet on barriers erected to keep tromping shoes out of sensitive security zones and off the lush green lawns maintained year-round.
Washington exists in a perpetual state of high-alert, so the quadrennial celebration doesn’t bring the city to a screeching halt as it would others.
However, visitors, who typically have their run of federal land – including walking right up to the Capitol steps and entering the Lincoln Memorial – have found these activities curtailed this weekend.
The Inauguration Day holy of holies is the enormous stage built on the Capitol’s west front, with various grades of lockdown emanating all the way down the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue.
As Wednesday gave way to Thursday, a steady stream of Trump supporters (and opponents) stepped off chartered buses from across the country to trek across the heavily-restricted Capitol grounds that are decorated with Jumbotrons and streaming flags.
“Make America Great Again” hats, now available in more form-fitting varieties than the boxy design made famous by Trump, sometimes create a rippling red sea as his supporters weave their way through chockablock sidewalks.
The atmosphere? “Festive!” glowed inauguration attendee Gerald Davis of Nashville.
“It’s a real turnaround for our country,” he said, holding a handful of flags featuring the billionaire politician’s half-smiling face.
Gerald’s wife, Ann, is enthused that the inauguration will bring “hope for healing in our country.”
Ann’s been so desperate for a change that she, and others from a Facebook group, have been “praying for a year and a half now, every night at eight o’clock.”
In the end, Ann is beyond grateful. “God has answered that prayer with Trump.”
Anthony Allen, a 62-year-old African-American man from Oakridge, Tennessee, traveled to the nation’s capital because he views Trump as a unifier.
“We are going to get rid of division – color divisions,” Allen said. “We are really just one community, and that is the American community. That’s what Trump represents.”
His best friend Bob Johnson, a 71-year-old white man from Lenoir City, Tennessee, could not agree more.
The two men, in matching MAGA hats, made the journey to Washington together.
“As far as I’m concerned, Anthony and I are brothers,” Johnson says earnestly. “And I think we define America a heck of a lot better than either of the other classes, the Alt-Right or liberal.”
Johnny Ferguson isn’t as concerned about creating harmony, racial or otherwise. He’s here to make an unapologetic statement.
The military veteran from Lake Jackson, Texas, has been planted outside the Capitol for the past few days in a homemade shirt reading, “BLACKS MAKE RACIAL SLURS & COMMIT HATE CRIMES TOO!!”
Ferguson says he wanted to highlight the unfairness white Americans being “punished” for biased behavior when he sees the same in minority communities. “I’ve met a half-dozen blacks who do like it, and they told me to keep wearing it.”
The Texan is excited to see Trump break with tradition and “back up” Americans he sees being bullied into political correctness.
“I don’t want a president that’s worried about being politically correct.” Ferguson advises Trump, “Tell it like it is, you know?”
Quietly moving among the largely conservative crowd is a sizable number of people who’ve shown up early for the Women’s March on Washington.
While serious protests lie ahead on Saturday, the dissenters gathering today are peacefully checking out the sites.
Elaine Kabat and Beverly Comins, who are sisters, flew in from Florida and Michigan respectively to march in the protests and salute the outgoing president.
“We thought this would be a great time to spend time together as sisters for a cause that we both care deeply about,” said Kabat of Land O Lakes, Florida.
While she and her sister think President Barack Obama has done a “fabulous job,” they will respectfully attend the Trump swearing-in as an act of patriotism.
Then, on Saturday, Kabat says the two will proudly march in DC’s streets “to protest all the causes and concerns that I’m worried about relative to the new administration that’s coming in.”
Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales