At 11:15 a.m. yesterday, as President Bush waited in the U.S. Capitol for his swearing-in ceremony, the command center of the FBI's Washington field office was humming with activity.
There was no shortage of matters to investigate. Early in the day, a trucker in Ohio asked a fellow driver for directions to Washington so he could blow up a bridge. An abandoned Ryder truck turned up under Interstate 395 at South Capitol Street. A suspect dubbed the "Handshake Man," who breached security at earlier inaugurations and greeted the president, was arrested at the Capitol.
Authorities also looked into a man who threatened to bring radioactive cesium to 14th and H streets NW. They dealt with an unstable man who walked into Fort Myer, vowing to cause a tsunami at the Key Bridge. And FBI agents handled reports of suspicious packages along the most heavily guarded street in the country yesterday: Pennsylvania Avenue, site of the inaugural parade.
"That is as secure a stretch of road as exists anywhere in the world today," said Michael E. Rolince, on-scene commander at the FBI's Command and Tactical Operations Center, where about 30 agents monitored video feeds, answered telephones and tracked incident reports on a giant computer screen.
In the end, massive anti-terrorism preparations for what federal authorities promised would be the most secure inauguration in U.S. history turned into an exercise in crowd control, as an army of 13,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers and military troops chased down tips, policed public disturbances and reported few major incidents. "This is the kind of stuff we do day in, day out," Rolince said.
About 14 arrests throughout the day were made by U.S. Capitol Police, U.S. Park Police, Federal Protective Service officers and District police. The arrests were mostly for trespassing or clashing with law enforcement officers within a secure zone of more than 100 downtown blocks, authorities said. Those detained included four women characterized by Park Police as anti-fur protesters, who disrobed in the January cold and crossed the parade route.
D.C. police said that 10 officers were injured in incidents involving antiwar demonstrators and other protesters and that several were hospitalized. Among the general public, 33 people were taken to hospitals, mostly for exposure to the cold or for slip-and-fall injuries, and nearly 300 people were treated at 29 first-aid stations, according to a D.C. emergency official, Roderick Blair.
Bush took the oath of office at the Capitol without incident and later, surrounded by Secret Service agents, left his motorcade to walk a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House.
Meanwhile, authorities established a security gantlet that they hoped would place a "sterile" seal around downtown, processing tens of thousands of people through 22 checkpoints while holding traffic as far as a half-mile away.
D.C. police estimated that as many as 150,000 people attended the parade, and Capitol Police said 265,000 attended the swearing-in ceremony.
"Frankly, our scenarios and planning envisioned a nightmare, but today was kind of dreamy," Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said.
Authorities expressed special satisfaction that they had apprehended Richard C. Weaver, 59, a Sacramento minister who shook Bush's hand after breaching the security bubble around his 2001 inauguration. Weaver did the same with President Bill Clinton at Clinton's second inauguration in 1997. A celebrity gate-crasher, Weaver claims to have met five presidents and handed them notes or coins. He showed up at the Capitol yesterday, but he got nowhere near the president.
Capitol Police Officer Christopher Talford identified Weaver from photographs and arrested him on a warrant. "It was great work, and that's what we like to see on days like this especially," Capitol Police spokesman Michael Lauer said.
There were flare-ups, however, and the number of arrests and public disruptions exceeded those four years ago after Bush's disputed 2000 election victory. Police reported nine arrests in 2001.