Activists mobilize against Bush
In a mass-mobilization effort reminiscent of last spring's IMF/World Bank protests, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of downtown D.C. Saturday to challenge the fanfare for George W. Bush, the nation's 43rd president.
Early in the day, protesters gathered at loosely organized locations along the inaugural parade route, shouting and toting signs supporting a myriad of agendas.
Amidst the single-file public entrance checkpoints, protesters attempted to enter the barricaded area leading up to the Capitol Building with banners, cardboard signs and other protest paraphernalia.
Legal guidelines concerning the signage were the same as used for the White House sidewalk, MPD officials said. No signs or placards exceeding three feet in width and 20 feet in length were permitted.
At around noon, about 100 Black Box Anarchists of World Bank protest notoriety marched down 14th Street chanting, waving black flags and pushing over police barricades.
Meanwhile, as inaugural ceremonies for the incoming President Bush were beginning at the Capitol Building, a couple hundred demonstrators occupied bleachers at Freedom Plaza, despite not having tickets, rally organizers reported.
Capitol and Supreme Court Police blocked the path of a rambunctious crowd of protesters led by celebrity civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton as they reached the sidewalk in front of the Capitol Building around 1 p.m.
The Metropolitan Police Department reported that over a dozen organizations obtained permits for demonstrations on Inauguration Day. The anti-abortion Christian Defense Coalition, International Action Center, Millions for Mumia, Oral Majority, People for Self Determination and more received the green light for rallying.
At one of the checkpoints, Boston native Michael Borkinson peddled homemade "Impeach Bush" buttons. Borkinson and busloads of others organized by the International Action Center trekked south to Washington from Massachusetts early this morning.
For Borkinson, Bush's inauguration brings back memories of Richard Nixon's second inauguration in 1973. An 18-year-old student at Boston University at the time, Borkinson slept on the floor of AU's Mary Graydon Center the night before protesting the Vietnam War at Nixon's swearing-in.
Several protesters donned Burger King crowns with "Boy King" magic-markered in, lined one of the gates to the Capitol Building grounds as bystanders squeezed through a single-file entrance to get a better look at Bush's swearing-in.
Holding the end of a long black banner with "Illegitimate" emblazoned in silver across it, Jennifer Dikes let her voice be heard in an attempt at what some passersby deemed "protesting the inevitable."
"Bush is taking over in a way that a lot of people have found very, very offensive," Dikes said. "We're letting people know that not everybody thinks that this is a great day for America.
"There are a lot of people who are disappointed for a number of different reasons. There are people who are upset about how the election went on - policies the new admin will bring so not everybody is gung-ho about George Bush and I think we have the right to say that."
Nine buses from New York brought Jennifer Dikes and fellow "Democracy March" participants to the District on Saturday.
Nearby, a woman waving an American flag chanted "Bush is not our president. Bush is a thief." Alongside her, a Florida native flailing two flags yelled "Florida fights back."
The inauguration provided the perfect platform for the National Organization for Women to draw attention to their cause and protest the new president, activists Bridget Shaw and Mariam Mohseni agreed.
"I think this was a relevant time for doing this because, a lot of the issues [in the upcoming administration] aren't for women and are mostly male dominated," Mohseni said as she boarded the Metro at Judiciary Square. "I think this is a good cause and a good time."
Both NOW supporters said weather dampened spirits and the number of people who stayed throughout the day.
Police and protesters agree that the demonstrator turnout was the largest of its kind since Nixon's inauguration. The expected 20,000 protesters and Presidential well-wishers kept separate throughout most of the day, groups agreed.
More than 4,000 MPD officers were densely stationed at points across the National Mall and public entrances to the festivities along Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues, officer Anthony O'Leary, a spokesman for MPD, said.
More than 1,600 officers, more than twice the normal count of police in the District, were brought from neighboring jurisdictions like Maryland and Virginia.
Several clashes between police and protesters occurred throughout the day but none were as violent as the IMF/World Bank protests, O'Leary said. The caliber of force and techniques used for crowd control by law enforcement was minimal Saturday in comparison to last spring's riots in which many were injured in confrontations with club-wielding police outfitted in riot-gear.
In contrast to the masses protesting Bush, hundreds of pro-Bush demonstrators also marched in support of the country's new leader.
As the new president enjoyed lunch with First Lady Laura and their closest companions, the temperature dropped and cold winter mist turned to rain as thousands crowded curbside eagerly awaiting the start of the parade.
A pack of floats, a half-dozen U.S. military bands and a horde of other marching bands snaked down the parade route beginning at the east side of the Capitol, down Constitution Avenue to Pennsylvania and on to 17th Street.
The presidential motorcade pulled away from the Capitol at around 3 p.m. At the same time, former President Bill Clinton, wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea boarded Air Force One bound north to New York.