Boris Epshteyn, director of communications for President-elect Donald Trump's Inaugural Committee, has a message for the thousands of protesters who plan to march on Washington, D.C., during inauguration weekend: We respect your right to protest, but we hope you change your mind.
On Dec. 27, Epshteyn asserted that the Trump team would be responsive to the planned protests that could potentially overshadow the inauguration. The most high-profile protest will be the Women's March on Washington, which is slated to take place on Jan. 21, a day after Trump is sworn in.
"We're here to hear their concerns," Epshteyn told CNN. "We understand that people have concerns, but we welcome them to our side as well ... We hope some will come to D.C. and change their minds instead of protest. Come celebrate with us."
Trump's inauguration is set to be the most contentious swearing in of a president in recent U.S. history. As of Dec. 27, the National Park Service had received 23 permit requests from both supporters and protesters of Trump to hold events in Washington, D.C., during his inauguration on Jan. 20, The New York Times reports.
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"Everybody knows how contentious the campaign was," said District of Columbia Director of Homeland Security Christopher T. Geldart. "Honestly, what really keeps me up at night around this is the ability for us to just allow folks to come in, express their views and leave safely."
The roughly 36 different agencies that handle security during presidential inaugurations reportedly expect their resources to be stretched to the limit in January 2017, with security costs estimated to clock in at over $100 million.
For example, the event permit obtained by organizers of the Women's March on Washington allots roughly 200,000 protesters to attend. The march, which was announced shortly after Trump's election victory, will have prominent feminist leader Gloria Steinem and singer/activist Harry Belafonte serving as honorary co-chairs, The Hill reports.
"We want to ensure that this country knows women are not happy," Tamika Mallory, a co-founder of the march, told NPR. "And when we get angry, change happens."
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Mallory added that the event was not designed to be against Trump but "pro-women ... In this moment, we are connecting and being as loud as possible."
Epshteyn said the Trump team will respect the protests as long as they remain civil and legal.
"We very much respect the First Amendment," Epshteyn said. "We understand that people choose to protest. As long as they do so within all laws rules and regulations, they're welcome to do so."