San Diego Union Tribune

January 21, 2005

Security tight in nation's capital
Protesters rowdy, but no major disturbances

By Toby Eckert

WASHINGTON – Security forces clamped a tight lid on much of the nation's capital yesterday, keeping a wary eye on hundreds of thousands of spectators and shadowing rowdy protesters who did their best to get President Bush's attention during his second inauguration.

No major disturbances occurred, though police scuffled with protesters at security checkpoints and made several arrests for assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct and crossing police lines.

Bush supporters vied with the protesters, trying to drown out their shouts and obscure their anti-Bush signs.

The Secret Service took no chances for the first presidential inauguration since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, coordinating a citywide security effort that included nearly 9,000 police officers and military personnel.

Much of downtown resembled an armed camp, with 100 blocks completely closed to traffic, concrete and iron barriers stretching for miles and dozens of security checkpoints set up to screen spectators. City buses were used to block some intersections near the parade route, while helicopters maintained an aerial vigil and police sharpshooters watched from rooftops.

Spectators were divided over the extent of the security, with some calling it overkill and others saying it was necessary.

Some of the largest protests were organized by anti-war activists and anarchist groups, which staged marches before trying to take up posts along the parade route.

Thousands marched toward the White House down 16th Street, one of the city's main arteries. Anti-Bush banners – which even decorated dogs and baby strollers – read "Arms Are For Hugging" and "Money for Tsunami Relief, not a Billionaire's Ball."

Protesters carried 1,000 cardboard "coffins" draped with American flags, symbolizing some of the U.S. service members killed in the Iraq war.

"I was on the streets in the 1960s" protesting the Vietnam War, said Bob Partlow, a 57-year-old social services worker from Washington state. "I can't believe that now as I'm approaching my 60s, I'm back here on the streets having to say 'no' to another president and another miserable war."

Similar sentiments resounded as hundreds of young people in a group known as Anarchist Resistance raised red flags and denounced Bush's leadership.

"I think the Bush administration is arrogant. And people here who are protesting are proving what he has is not a mandate," said Megan Kernan, 21, of Seattle.

Several protesters attempted to disrupt the inauguration speech, including an unidentified man a stone's throw from the president who stood up and booed near the end of the address. A clamor went up from the audience, and a police officer ushered the man away.

Some people waited up to two hours to pass through security tents where they were patted down by police officers, Secret Service agents or passenger screeners on loan from the Transportation Security Administration.

Viewing space along the parade route for the general public was at a premium. Most of Pennsylvania Avenue was lined with bleachers controlled by the Bush inaugural committee, which sold tickets for seats. A much smaller amount of space was reserved for pro-and anti-Bush demonstrators.

"I think it is a complete violation of free speech and the right to assembly," said Jeff George, an information technology professional from Reading, Pa.

But Kevin Kenefic, who paid $60 for a bleacher seat a few blocks from the White House, was unapologetic.

"It's a capitalist society," said Kenefic, who is from Magnolia, Texas, and whose son marched in the parade with the Fighting Texas Aggie Band from Texas A&M University.

Copley News Service reporters Dana Wilkie, Joe Cantlupe, Paul Krawzak and Jerry Kammer contributed to this report.

»Next Story»