Muhammad Ashraf, president of Nationwide Chauffeured Services in Alexandria, Va., didn’t support Donald Trump during the 2016 election. That doesn’t mean he wanted a car in his nearly 30-limousine fleet torched by protesters during the inauguration.
In a protest at 13th and K streets in Northwest Washington, Ashraf’s limo — a stretch model valued at $90,000, he said — was destroyed. First, protesters smashed the windows, forcing the car’s driver to flee. Then, the car was spray-painted with an anarchy symbol and the slogan “We the People.” Not long after protesters hurled rocks at police, who appeared to respond with flash-bang grenades, the limo was set ablaze, black smoke filling the sky near the time President Trump entered the White House.
Ashraf, a Muslim who came to the United States 30 years ago from Pakistan, said his driver was injured as he fled and is too traumatized to speak out. He said he’s not sure insurance will cover the repair bill because he still doesn’t know where the car is. He’s awaiting information from D.C. police.
“I do believe strongly that no protest requires any kind of violence or destruction,” Ashraf said.
Luis Villarroel, the limo’s driver, told the Associated Press he was told to leave the area by police as protests escalated.
“It was very clear that these kids only wanted to damage the property,” he said.
Ashraf might not need a big payday to cover the cost of the car. A limousine company in Florida already has raised almost $14,000 for him.
Mike Denning, who runs Elegant Limousines in Daytona Beach with his wife, Marlo Denning, said they saw the story on the news and were compelled to reach out as part of a “small-knit” industry.
“That’s not somebody’s Honda that got burned,” Mike Denning said.
Though the Dennings supported Trump, they said the election had nothing to do with their decision to help Ashraf.
“We don’t really get into the politics and what have you,” Denning said. “We respect everyone.”
Ashraf, meanwhile, said his company routinely drove Trump “for two to three years” before his presidential campaign — and that the driver who fled protesters Friday regularly chauffeured the future president.
“He was always very generous,” Ashraf said of Trump. “It’s mind-boggling, sometimes, when you hear him talk. It’s a different tone.”