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At The National Mall, Some Celebrate, Others Protest


Outside the security perimeter, WAMU's Elly Yu spoke with people protesting the president's Salute to America. She joins us now. And Elly, to begin, where are you around the National Mall? What have you been seeing?

ELLY YU, BYLINE: So I'm on the other side of the reflecting pool, near the World War II Memorial. It's on the opposite side of where the president is expected to speak tonight. And over here, there is a group of protesters gathered with the anti-war group Code Pink. Earlier, they had the Baby Trump balloon inflated. It's a 20-foot Baby Trump balloon. And you might have seen it flying in London. But they've had to deflate it because of the weather. It's - the National Weather Service has been reporting scattered thunderstorms all day, but protesters are hoping to get it back up again for the president's speech.

CORNISH: Who are some of the people that you've met today?

YU: So I spoke with a lot of folks who say they're opposed to the president turning this into a politicized event. I also spoke with a man named Jeff Strathern (ph). He had a display of a Baby Trump balloon in a cage. And he said he's out here because he's opposed to what's going on at the border and the migrant children in the detention centers. Here's what he had to say.

JEFF STRATHERN: I think the treatment by this administration of the families that are legally seeking asylum is immoral.

YU: Others I spoke with say they're opposed to the whole display of the military here. And they say this is more of a salute to Trump than a salute to America.

CORNISH: I can hear the thunder out there. I know that it's quite the scene outside the barricades. Can you talk about the other activities that are planned beyond the president's salute?

YU: Yeah. Beyond the barricades, I met a group of local D.C. residents who bought a bunch of little Baby Trump balloons on their own online and are just inflating it to people as they pass by. There's also a flag burning protest near the White House - of folks who say they're opposed the president's policies. And on a lighter note, there's also reports of a senior singalong happening. A group of senior residents want to have an alternative event to the president's speech. So they're calling it Make Americans Friends Again. And they're going to sing songs.

CORNISH: Elly, to step back for a moment, can you talk about how city officials - Washington, D.C., officials have been talking about this event? Because it seems like it's sort of thrown people for a loop.

YU: So officials here in the city say they're doing everything they can to keep this event safe, that they're - you know, however it costs, they're going to do whatever it takes to keep residents safe. But they are worried about what this will cost. There has been no cost estimate. And D.C.'s mayor, Muriel Bowser, says they will submit a - seek a reimbursement from the federal government after this is all over.

CORNISH: Although I understand that has not gone so well - for instance, with the inauguration.

YU: Right. D.C. is still about owed about $7 million from the inauguration. So they are hoping that the federal government will pay up.

CORNISH: Do you get the sense from the protesters today that these folks are local, or are they from other parts of the country or region, in terms of protesters?

YU: They're from all over the region. But a lot of the folks I've talked to have been coming from the D.C. area. I did speak with one person who came - who flew all the way in from Hawaii for the protests with the Code Pink - the Baby Trump balloon folks - so a mix of folks.

CORNISH: And we should say Code Pink is seen at many events around the district - right? - when it comes to protesting this administration.

YU: That's right. That's right.

CORNISH: That's WAMU's Elly Yu. We'll check in with her throughout the evening. Elly, same to you - I hope you brought an umbrella.

YU: Thanks, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.