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Sunday, 22 January 2017 01:24

DC dispatch: Saturday, Jan. 21

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What a difference a day makes.

After a Friday that left both protestors and police bruised and bloodied – and saw motorists and pedestrians screaming for relief from road closures and barricades – it all seemed to evaporate into the foggy morning mist of Saturday.

Washington, D.C. police said that more than 200 protestors were arrested yesterday afternoon when largely peaceful protests following Donald Trump’s inauguration descended into violence near Franklin Square.

Rock-throwing protestors injured six police officers during brief but intense clashes that also included several small fires, the vandalization of vehicles and destruction of some storefronts.

But today, an altogether different mood prevailed; most roads and bridges that had been closed to traffic were reopened, as crews worked throughout the night to dismantle and remove the metal fences and concrete partitions that created a massive security perimeter around the core of the city.

All this came just in time for yet another day of demonstrations – demonstrations which couldn’t have been more different than those of the day before.

The 2017 Women’s March on Washington wasn’t slated to begin until 10 a.m., but by 8 this morning, large knots of pedestrians – identifiable by their pink attire – began striding towards the event, some walking from as far as Arlington, Virginia across the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

It was wholly apparent even in those early hours that the attendance of the march would exceed estimates by police and organizers; no quarter of the district was untouched by the presence of men, women and children of all ages and colors, toting signs and banners, or wearing colorful costumes.

Some had come from across the region, the country or even the world to protest what they said were Trump’s policy priorities that could endanger the health and equality of women and LGBT groups.

By the end of the march – which began with a star-studded lineup of speakers who riled up a cheek-to-jowl crowd behind the Smithsonian Institution on Constitution Ave. for over three hours – there weren’t even whispers of the violence or confrontations with law enforcement like the ones yesterday.


Local media estimated the crowd at half a million; notably, the only things that crowd threw around were phrases like “excuse me,” “sorry,” and “thank you for your service” to the legions of law enforcement personnel lining the route.

Don’t miss the Wednesday, Jan. 25 issue of SMN, which will feature expanded coverage of the Women’s March on Washington, as well as the usual mix of news, opinion, A&E, outdoors and more. Listen to Cory Vaillancourt's report from Washington on North Carolina Public Radio WCQS: at

Saturday, 21 January 2017 00:07

DC dispatch: Friday, Jan. 20

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Hillary Clinton emerged from the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building this morning, clad in white and looking out over a crowd of thousands who’d assembled on the west lawn.

But she wasn’t there to take the oath of office; instead, she could only watch as the man who stunned her and much of America by winning the election Nov. 8 took the oath and the office for himself.

Clinton was there only as the wife of a former president; the ceremony that accompanies America’s peaceful transfer of power has always recognized a number of honored guests, including members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and surviving former presidents.

That crowd of thousands – dotted with the now-iconic red hats – gave a measured response each time one was introduced and seated.

President Jimmy Carter received a respectful round of applause. At 92 years of age, Carter is the oldest surviving former president. His successor, Ronald Reagan, passed away in 2004, and his successor, George H. Bush, is currently resting comfortably in the intensive care unit of Houston Methodist Hospital.

But Bush’s successor, William Jefferson Clinton, was in attendance with former first lady and former Democratic nominee for the presidency Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When the Clintons were announced, a rousing chorus of boos rose from an audience that refused to grant her any dignity in her defeat.

George W. Bush looked happier and healthier than he ever did as president, and garnered perhaps the most applause of any former president in attendance.

Even the Obamas – President Barack and wife Michelle – as well as Vice President Biden and wife Dr. Jill Biden received a surprisingly polite and healthy acknowledgement from the crowd that seemed genuine, and not in a “so long!” kind of way.

Obama’s successor, Donald John Trump, was greeted by cheers and chants of “USA! USA!” and “MAGA!” as he repeated the oath Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts read to him.

Disruptions were few; a Code Pink protestor was led out of the ceremony by police while chanting and holding a “refugees welcome” banner, as were several others.

The real action began after the inauguration.


Protestors gathered around Franklin Square openly smoked marijuana, pumped signs in the air, climbed atop bus shelters and traffic signals, chanted slogans and cajoled Washington, D.C. police, who were clad in riot gear, complete with batons and shields.

After starting a small fire in the street, fueled by trash cans, newspaper boxes and naked rage, protestors were warned to clear out so firefighters could extinguish the flames.

They refused, and all hell broke loose.

A limousine had its windows smashed out and was set alight; a nearby Starbucks – for some reason, always a convenient target for protestors – saw its plate glass reduced to millions of shards of sparkly gravel on the sidewalk as the biting smell of mace clouded the air.

Flashbangs were detonated and tear gas was uncorked as protestors fled down K Street, adding further mayhem to a Friday D.C. rush hour already made trying by the events of the week.

Few presidents have seen such outright contempt even as their terms were in such infancy; sure, Nixon was despised by many, and the second Bush (along with Vice President Dick Cheney) earned the ire of millions. But this one – Trump – seems poised to top them all.

The question remains, however – had Hillary Clinton taken that oath and that office this morning, would disgruntled Trump supporters have raised such a fuss?



Check back for nightly updates and for continuing coverage of the 2017 Presidential Inauguration on, or follow along on SMN’s social media platforms, including on Facebook at and Also, don’t miss the Wednesday, Jan. 25 issue of SMN, which will feature expanded coverage of the inauguration as well as the usual mix of news, opinion, A&E, outdoors and more.  

Listen to Cory Vaillancourt's report from Washington on North Carolina Public Radio WCQS: at


Thursday, 19 January 2017 22:23

DC dispatch: Thursday, Jan. 19

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Amidst heavy security and a conspicuous law enforcement presence, Washington, D.C. is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

Roads and bridges are closed throughout the district, pedestrian barriers strangle the streets like so many steel vines and one is never more than a few feet from a police officer or set of flashing lights.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:53

Sylva shoe duo upholds the last of a dying trade

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Mike Fitzgerald rarely skipped a beat as he darted spryly between his cobbler’s bench and the vintage, grime-coated machines anchoring his narrow shoe repair shop.

It’s hard to fathom, but Fitzgerald knows every nook and cranny of the controlled chaos. Floor-to-ceiling shelves brim with a disheveled array of tack boxes, heaps of leather scraps, and a small army of polish and dye cans.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:42

Macon urges proper disposal of used needles

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Sanitation workers in Macon County are worried about dangerous items that could be lurking in the household trash bags being hauled to the landfill.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:41

Increased density coming to Howell Mill Road?

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An oft-repeated concern expressed during meetings of the Haywood County Affordable Housing Task Force is the scarcity of buildable land available in mountainous Haywood County, but a proposed rezoning for three parcels on Howell Mill Road may demonstrate a viable path forward in the push to make the area a more affordable place to live.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:40

Bryson City removes trees on Everett Street

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Many Bryson City business owners were caught off guard last week when they noticed massive holes all along Everett Street where large shade trees used to be planted. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:38

Street trees replaced in Sylva

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The streets of downtown Sylva are newly treeless after town crews excavated the red maples earlier this month, but the condition won’t last for long. A new set of trees — 15 Japanese zelkovas — has been ordered and will likely go in this week.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:34

Town to pursue Calvary Street purchase

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The town of Waynesville will move forward with plans to purchase three vacant, blighted lots straddling Calvary Street, despite interest from another private party.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:32

Russ fuss prompts resolution

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After holding two public hearings that drew large crowds of opposition, Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown and the board of aldermen took an official stance on the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s unpopular proposal for Russ Avenue improvements.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:29

Painting helps Swain County artist heal

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Barbara Robinson can find artistic inspiration wherever she may be. 

Sometimes it’s looking out over Frye Mountain from her art studio window at home, while at other times perhaps a particular barn she spots while driving through Swain County will pique her interest. Other times it’s a vision in her head that works its way out over time.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:26

Illegal dumping plagues Swain

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Swain County recently spent more than $350,000 in order to better secure its trash site and cut down on sanitation department costs, but recent illegal dumping continues to be a costly and time-consuming problem.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:24

Former gaming enterprise chairwoman to rejoin board

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The Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise’s newest member will be anything but new to the business of casino management when she takes her seat on the board.

According to a recent ranking from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority is one of the nation’s worst-performing hospitals when it comes to rates of patients who acquire infections while staying in the hospital.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:20

Board member removed from TWSA mid-term

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Joe Ward’s term on the Tuckasegee Water and Sewer Authority board came to an abrupt end last week when newly elected commissioner Mickey Luker made a motion to remove him during the Jackson County Commissioners’ Jan. 9 meeting. The move prevailed in a party-line vote, three Republicans against two Democrats.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:17

SMN reporter to cover Presidential Inauguration

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Starting this week, The Smoky Mountain News will begin issuing a steady stream of coverage from the nation’s capital as the world awaits the swearing in of the United States’ 45th President, Republican Donald J. Trump.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:16

Still time to sign up for ACA insurance policy

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The planned repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act doesn’t seem to be impacting the numbers of people in Western North Carolina signing up for coverage.

A crowd of more than 150 people took to the streets of downtown Sylva Sunday joining protestors in cities across America for a national day of action to save the Affordable Care Act.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:10

Haywood struggling to retain teachers

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For months now, a committee created by the Haywood County Board of Education has been looking for ways to entice teachers to remain in the system, with little success.

The building that once housed Central Elementary School may soon find new life in the private sector, if and when Haywood County Commissioners take a pass on it.