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Amber’s Washington weekend: A view from both sides

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO  Amber Brach-Williams attended the inauguration of President Trump on Friday  and the Women's March on Saturday.
Amber Brach-Williams attended the inauguration of President Trump on Friday and the Women’s March on Saturday.

Among the Island residents who made their way to Washington last weekend was Town Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams who had an opportunity to witness the two disparate sides in American politics.

On Friday, she attended the inauguration of President Trump. On Saturday, she joined the hundreds of thousands of people taking part in the Women’s March on Washington.

Ms. Brach-Williams, a Republican who voted for Hillary Clinton, was invited to the inaugural ceremonies by her friend, conservative CNN contributor Jeffrey Lord.

“Even though I didn’t vote for Trump, it was an opportunity to go,” she told the Reporter Tuesday. “I wanted to observe what this transition of power would look like after such a contentious election.”

Ms. Brach-Williams attended the inaugural welcome concert on Thursday night and was seated in the ticketed section during swearing in ceremonies at the Capitol on Friday afternoon. She also attended the inaugural ball on Friday night at the Washington Convention Center.

That’s where she met avid Republican Caitlyn Jenner.

“That was cool,” said Ms. Brach-Williams who admits that though she didn’t know what to make of Ms. Jenner when Time magazine named her Person of the Year in 2015, she enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about her at the ball.

“We sat and chatted. Being a Republican woman in the LGBT community, she’s not accepted and they give her a hard time. So she’s making contact with the legislators,” Ms. Brach-Williams said. “I admired that.”

Ms. Brach-Williams had a ticket to Friday’s inaugural parade, but was unable to attend. She explained that violent anti-Trump protests nearby had drawn security forces away and they were unable to admit more spectators to the stands. She did, however, have an opportunity to get to know some of the Trump supporters.

“The Trumpers were really excited, optimistic and hopeful he’ll do something good,” she said. “I talked to two men — one from California and the other from Georgia. I said I didn’t vote for Trump, but we still had a thoughtful discussion.”

The following morning, Ms. Brach-Williams was out on the mall again, this time with hundreds of thousands of other protesters taking part in the Women’s March on Washington.

“I wanted to march on Saturday because as a woman, I am concerned with issues that continue to exist and rights that could be threatened with the new administration,” she explained.

As she was leaving, she heard someone calling her name and saw four Islanders — BJ Ianfolla, Kim Reilly, Susan Binder and Julie Karpeh.

By the end of the weekend, she felt she had witnessed first-hand a perfect illustration of what this country is all about.

“What struck me the most was that democracy works,” she said. “After a polarizing campaign, the country swore in a new president and hosted a massive demonstration 24 hours later, and there was very little violence and most everyone was respectful.”

Her takeaway from the weekend? “We the people, on all sides, are more involved in the political conversation than I have witnessed in my lifetime. We need to stay involved and we need to truly listen to each other.”