They were pelted with snowballs, doused with pepper spray. They were outnumbered by police and by Bush loyalists, drowned out for the most part by the fanfare of the nation's 55th inauguration.
The thousands of protesters who took to the streets to oppose President Bush's second swearing-in did succeed on at least one score: No one who came to Washington to celebrate the inauguration yesterday left without encountering them.
The biggest disruption apparently occurred late last night, far from the center of inaugural action, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Shortly before midnight, police clad in riot gear arrested 65 people they described as anarchists for allegedly parading without a permit after the encircled A symbol of the anarchist movement was spray-painted on buildings.
Inspector Diane Groomes of the 3rd Police District, who was on the scene early today, said members of the group also broke out the windows of some restaurants and at least one bank in the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Columbia Road, a popular strip of restaurants and clubs.
Earlier yesterday, the demonstrations unfolded along the Pennsylvania Avenue inaugural parade route and throughout parts of downtown, drawing a diversity of activists, causes and tactics.
Smothered by scores of law enforcement officials and faced with barricaded streets, security checkpoints and sign restrictions, the protesters often seemed overwhelmed.
They scuffled with police in at least two places near Pennsylvania Avenue, as officers waved batons and used pepper spray to subdue marchers who knocked down metal security barricades, threw water bottles and other debris and, in one instance, set an American flag aflame.
Another disruption came toward the end of Bush's inaugural speech outside the Capitol, when about 10 protesters seated on the West Front stood up and shouted antiwar slogans, unfurling banners, including one that read "No War," before being led away by police. Several in the audience threw snowballs at them and started chanting "USA! USA!"
Police reported 14 arrests for various offenses, most of them related to the protests. But about two dozen activists who wanted to be arrested were left lying on the cold asphalt near Lafayette Square for three hours before abandoning their "die-in."
"I think [the police] had a no-arrest strategy because of all the bad publicity they've had in the last few years and the fact that they are facing a lot of lawsuits," said Mark L. Goldstone, a veteran protest lawyer.
The demonstrations seemed more scattered and generally smaller than those during Bush's inauguration four years ago, when thousands took part in the largest inaugural protest since the Vietnam War. Authorities did not provide an estimate of the number of protesters yesterday, but the organizers of three of the biggest actions said more than 25,000 participated.
"I felt it was my duty, almost, to show that there is a different side, that it's okay to express a different side," said Jayse Pacelli, 18, who rode a bus all night with protesters from Upstate New York and proudly carried his sign -- signed by classmates at C.W. Baker High School in Syracuse, where he is a senior -- reading, "Not my president."
Participants and organizers declared success in getting out their antiwar, anti-Bush message, saying they saw yesterday's demonstration as something more than an opportunity to express disappointment over the results of the November election. They talked about their frustration with mainstream political parties, corporate greed and capitalism as often as they decried the president.
Jacqui Galante of New York said success would be measured in airtime. "I guess you just have to look at the TV, and if you saw us, then it worked," said Galante, who was leaving the parade route about 4 p.m. at the end of a long, sometimes quiet, sometimes chaotic day.
"It's not a cliche to say the whole world is watching," said Brian Becker, national coordinator for International ANSWER, which sponsored a lively antiwar rally. "The whole world is indeed watching Pennsylvania Avenue."
The protesters had no shortage of messages. Some focused on alleged Election Day fraud, questioning the legitimacy of the 2004 process. Others attacked the president over his handling of the war in Iraq, which many called "another Vietnam." Still others said they oppose the Patriot Act, the administration's environmental record or a host of other issues. Uniting everyone was a shared resentment of the Bush administration.
The day of protest began quietly, shortly after dawn outside Union Station. About 50 bicyclists set off on the first act of defiance -- a Critical Mass ride through the streets of Washington. With their route on a palm-size sheet of white paper, they headed down Massachusetts Avenue NE, trailed by a caravan of marked and unmarked police vans and patrol cars.
Zack Mully, 27, said the security was overkill. "We're just going for a ride," he said. "We're not doing anything illegal."
A couple of hours later, at 9 a.m., activists and Bush supporters stood shoulder-to-shoulder not far from Union Station as they waited to clear a checkpoint to gain access to the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route. For the most part, protesters kept their political views to themselves -- except for Gary Hebert.
"I've just been very unhappy with a lot of George Bush's policies," said Hebert, 40. "I think he divides us and alienates a lot of America and a lot of the world."
Hebert and other protesters acknowledged that their signs -- many of them bearing obscenities -- and marches would not get the attention of the president.
"It's frustrating because you know the administration doesn't care what anybody thinks," said John Kane, 34, who came from Madison, Wis., to participate.
A few blocks down the parade route, other demonstrators, these of a conservative mind, rallied in support of the president in an event organized by the D.C. chapter of Free Republic, a banner reading "God Bless W And Our Troops" attached to the barricades.
But many didn't need a banner to show their support for the president or frustration with protesters. "You don't like our country!" one person seated on the West Front shouted to the protesters, who included a group from Code Pink: Women for Peace, who disrupted Bush's speech.
But it was a 12:30 p.m. gathering of a different sort a short walk away at Logan Circle that brought out dozens of D.C. police. The circle was a meeting point for a gathering called by Anarchist Resistance, a collection of Washington area anarchists and anti-capitalists who professed to harbor a more "confrontational attitude" than many of their fellow protesters. Swelled by another group until they numbered about 300 -- many of them teenagers and twentysomethings, some concealing their faces behind black bandanas -- they marched toward the inaugural parade, improvising their route as a squad of police officers on motorcycles followed them.
Protesters beat the bottoms of water coolers with drum sticks and swayed black flags on bamboo poles as they marched down 13th and 11th streets, chanting "Not our president!"
"The system," said Lindsay Bradley, a 17-year-old Washington high school senior, "is just spiraling toward a huge rift between the poor and the rich. . . Something has to be done about it."
The march came to a halt on D Street, at Seventh Street, a few minutes after 1 p.m. Several dozen D.C. officers blocked marchers from going any further and began trying to push back the crowd. One officer used pepper spray, causing protesters to back up but not flee.
For several moments, the two sides faced off. The masked demonstrators in the front faced a row of officers with small metal batons. Protesters lobbed snowballs and other debris, including parts of bamboo poles. Then the marchers at the front appeared to surge forward, resulting in a melee that lasted several minutes.
Police swung their batons and hit the crowd with pepper spray, and one officer picked up a large piece of PVC pipe and began swinging it at protesters. Several people were knocked to the pavement in the scuffle.
D.C. police officials said six officers suffered minor injuries in the confrontation.
At least one officer was injured in last night's confrontation in Adams Morgan, said Cmdr. Cathy Lanier, head of the police department's special operations division. The officer was transported to the hospital, but no further details were immediately available.
Protesters said members of the group had walked to the commercial strip after attending a benefit concert at a nearby church. Demonstrators said the police did not warn members of the group before arresting them.
"The police never told anyone to disperse," said Ginny Leavell, 21, who said she had marched with the group. "It was festive, but they didn't get very far before the police showed up.''
Along Columbia Road, several buildings had been sprayed with red paint, and the front door of a Riggs Bank branch had been shattered.