"I'm not here to spark anything," said Australian visitor, Matthew Hopper, referring to President Trump's inauguration on Friday. "I'm neutral."
Hopper, a 21-year old who recently graduated from mechanical engineering school in his hometown of Brisbane, Australia, traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the inauguration events and tour the city. After visiting California and Canada as part of his first visit to the U.S., he hoped that attending the inauguration would bring him closer to experiencing American culture.
“I feel as though I really know a lot about American politics because I’ve watched so much of ‘House of Cards’,” he said jokingly. However, he did find time to revel in a few of Washington’s Smithsonian museums.
As someone who keeps up with American news, Hopper said he knew about the planned protests around the National Mall. But instead of gravitating towards conflict, he drifted toward the crowds of people who wanted to witness their 45th U.S. president get sworn into office, ushering in what he said could be a possible global trend of conservative politics.
Hopper easily navigated through the 7:30 a.m. line of mostly Trump supporters. He was one of the first to go through the security checkpoints near the 4th St. event.
As he waited for the ceremony to begin, he stepped back and forth from viewing the Jumbotron to snapping photos of the Capitol. He waited to hear pro-Trump chants.
"I was hoping to see the same energy as what I've seen at Trump's rallies," he said. "I wanted to see thousands and thousands of fans get excited."
But as an Australian, he said that he will watch the upcoming elections in France, Germany and Italy to see if President Trump’s “conservatism” will continue to spread across Europe.
"If Europe starts electing conservative politicians, Australia is likely to follow that lead," Hopper, who will return home to a job as a data scientist, said.
But Australia is not new to electing leaders who speak out against Muslims, he said. He noted that Pauline Hanson, who was voted into the Australian parliament during the 1990s, voiced anti-Muslim rhetoric during her time in the federal government. Twenty years later, she openly celebrated President Trump's victory.
After a 45-minute wait for another security checkpoint to see the Inaugural Parade, Hopper settled near 13th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW to snap photos of President Trump's motorcade.
As he video taped the U.S. military stroll by in the parade, one guy behind him was countering with police and being escorted away from the site.
Hopper also experienced a little American culture shock.
"The merchandise for President Trump is unreal," Hopper said of the masses of pro-Trump hats and memorabilia. And he was quick to mention the business tactics of street vendors.
"Yesterday a 'Make America Great Again' hat sold for $20. Today, it has dropped to $5."
As to why he attended 2017's inauguration events, Hopper said it boiled down to sheer curiosity and tourism.
"I thought I'll just lap it up," he said.