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Crowd Control, Not Terror, Causes Tense Moments

The biggest altercations occurred at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW after 3 p.m. At least two D.C. riot control officers were injured in a melee with protesters jammed in behind a security fence. Demonstrators eventually knocked down a half-dozen metal barricades. Police doused the crowd with pepper spray, causing several to vomit and stagger.

The disruption lasted more than a half-hour, while demonstrators threw snowballs, plastic water bottles and at least a half-dozen light fixtures pulled from street lamps. One officer was struck in the back by a part of a lamp; another was hit by a falling partition.


Secret Service agents surround President Bush's motorcade as he completes his journey from the Capitol to the White House. (Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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When Bush's motorcade passed, a piece of fruit, apparently an orange, struck his armored limousine, FBI agents said.

Near the Willard Hotel, at 14th and Pennsylvania, police confronted a group that lighted a bonfire of U.S. flags, fake coffins, cardboard and other items. At 13th Street NW, protesters set fire to bunting on the National League of Cities building.

"We took a hell of a beating," said D.C. Cmdr. Cathy Lanier, head of the D.C. police department's special operations division. She said officers were "very restrained," despite complaints from some demonstrators.

"We were getting hit with poles, sticks, barricades. We have broken bones and everything. We definitely had to fight to maintain our parade route," Lanier said.

Still, the unrest was far from the worst that authorities had planned for. For months, security officials planned a lockdown encompassing the skies, the ground and waterways for miles surrounding the first inauguration since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Although homeland security and intelligence analysts said they had no credible information of a terrorist threat, the U.S. Secret Service led more than 70 federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies in preparing for a host of possibilities, focusing especially on the risk of truck bombs and suicide attacks.

By yesterday, unauthorized boat traffic was barred from 16 miles of waterways along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers in the District. Small private aircraft were barred from 3,000 square miles over the Washington-Baltimore area, a ban enforced by F-15 and F-16 fighter patrols and Army antiaircraft missile units. Rail shipments of hazardous materials were halted through the city, and a CSX Corp. rapid-reaction team stood watch.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said last week that he was unable to estimate security costs for the inauguration.

Local inauguration-related costs have been estimated at $17.3 million. D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) objected that the Bush administration was requiring the District, Maryland and Virginia to cover $11.9 million of those costs out of federal homeland security grants, instead of reimbursing them as in the past.

The security cordon stretched beyond previously announced levels. Street closings spread as far as one-half mile from the parade route, twice as far as publicized. D.C. health officials complained that the Secret Service prevented one aid station from opening and delayed the opening of another for hours.

Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur denied the report, saying, "All the first-aid and health stations were operational."

To the public, security restrictions seemed tight and sometimes arbitrary. On the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue at 12th Street NW, security officers barred people from carrying fruit, coffee or hot beverages through the checkpoint, a restriction not enforced elsewhere.

Police were, by and large, polite and meticulous. At one barrier, a D.C. police official addressed the crowd through a megaphone. "Hello, I'm Commander Hilton Burton, from the Metropolitan Police Department. The Metropolitan Police Department has established barriers at Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street. If you cross that police line, you will be arrested. Thank you."

Protester Penny Timbers, 62, a federal employee from Falls Church who carried a sign saying, "Worst President Ever," said she was frisked so thoroughly by a police officer that "I was wondering if she would look in my underwear. . . . It's not thrilling, but I expected it."

Still, some in the crowds were disheartened or disgusted with the show of force.

"This is freedom?" complained Joe Schad, 62, a retired colonel from Winchester, Va., who came to turn his back on the president's motorcade. "They've got enough soldiers up here to blow up half the city," he said.

By 4 p.m., as Bush was safely ensconced in a hardened parade-reviewing stand in front of the White House, security officials were ready to declare the day a success.

"If it was football game, this is a win," acting Park Police Chief Dwight Pettiford said. "You always want to come away with a W."

At the FBI command center, supervisory agent James W. Rice II, coordinator of the national capital response squad, briefed a new shift about Bush's evening schedule. "It's all over at 1 a.m. At 1:01, we get the heck out of here. . . . But we stand back up tomorrow morning at 6 a.m."


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