By Steve Holland and Emily Stephenson
WASHINGTON : Donald Trump took power as the 45th president of the United States on Friday and pledged to end what he called an “American carnage” of rusted factories and crime in an inaugural address that was a populist and nationalist rallying cry.
Striking a defiant tone, Trump said American workers have been devastated by the outsourcing of jobs abroad.
“From this day forward it’s going to be only America First,” the Republican told thousands of people gathered on the National Mall to see him take over from Democrat Barack Obama.
With Obama and three other former presidents sitting nearby, Trump accused previous U.S. administrations of enriching Washington at the expense of struggling American families.
Underscoring the deep divisions in the country, protests against Trump turned ugly in downtown Washington. Black-clad activists smashed store windows, blocked traffic and fought with police in riot gear who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. Police said more than 200 people were arrested.
Aerial pictures of the crowds of Trump supporters on the Mall showed a much smaller turnout at midday on Friday than that in comparable photos from Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Estimates of Friday’s crowd size were not immediately available from police.
The inaugural address was vintage Trump, with plenty of material gleaned from dozens of campaign rallies he staged last year on the road to victory on Nov. 8 over Democrat Hillary Clinton, who attended the ceremony with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Trump said the United States has enriched foreign industry at the expense of American companies, subsidized the armies of other countries while letting the U.S. military become depleted, and spent trillions abroad while allowing infrastructure at home to crumble.
“The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world,” he said.
Trump accused the Washington establishment of protecting itself but abandoning regular citizens who have suffered from poverty and crime.
“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he said. “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families,” he said.
Trump, 70, takes over a country divided after a savage election campaign.
The grim vision of America he often paints is belied by statistics showing low levels of unemployment and crime nationally, although Trump won many votes in parts of the nation where manufacturing industry has been badly hit.
While Trump positioned himself as a champion of working Americans, the Tax Policy Center non-partisan think tank estimates that his tax proposals would not only add $7.2 trillion in U.S. government debt over the first 10 years, but are skewed to help the wealthiest Americans.
Hours after taking the oath of office, Trump, who repeatedly promised to repeal Obama’s signature health-care law, signed his first executive order, directing U.S. agencies to delay, waive or grant exemptions from any provisions of the Affordable Care Act deemed burdensome for states or individuals.
Republicans in Congress hope to repeal the health care law, also known as Obamacare, and replace it.
Sitting behind the presidential Resolute Desk, Trump signed the order in a hastily arranged ceremony. In the Oval Office, which Obama vacated Friday morning, gold drapes had already been hung in place of crimson ones.