There was some high-wire drama early in the day when a lone antiabortion protester climbed about 40 feet up a tree near the Capitol Reflecting Pool and for several hours refused to come down. Firefighters were unable to maneuver a ladder truck close to the tree because of security barriers. Initial efforts to talk him down were unsuccessful, according to Lon Walls, communications director for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said the protester was arrested, but the charges were unclear. Dine did not have immediate details of how the man was eventually removed or whether he came down on his own some five hours later.
In general, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told reporters that this year’s operations had gone more smoothly than for Obama’s first inauguration. D.C. police had arrested no protesters as of late afternoon and reported few major problems.
One exception occurred in the early morning hours Monday. Up to 60 anti-government activists, some wearing masks and carrying signs, damaged automated teller machines and a restaurant in the Mount Vernon Square area of downtown, according to police.
In one case, police said the vandals left anti-government literature behind.
“We’re looking at all avenues affiliated with anarchist groups,” said Officer Araz Alali, a D.C. police spokesman. “We’re taking this very seriously.”
About 40 self-described anarchists, many wearing bandannas on their faces, led police on their own three-hour parade, twisting and turning from McPherson Square to Pennsylvania Avenue and the edge of the security perimeter around the official parade route. They shouted at Obama supporters, calling the president a war criminal and a proxy for Wall Street bankers. More than once, inauguration-goers responded in kind, shouting down the group with chants of “O-bam-a.”
At times near Verizon Center, tensions rose as the group repeatedly deviated from a path police had cleared to keep them heading away from the parade route.
After reaching the dead end near Pennsylvania Avenue, protesters retraced their route with a block of police cars and motorcycles in tow. The group dissipated after reaching Dupont Circle, where they were drowned out by a drum circle of demonstrators seeking to draw attention to the complexities of Native American treaty obligations.