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Tight Security, Strong Opinions Dominate a Day Full of Divisions

By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 21, 2005; Page A01

Overwhelming security dominated the nation's 55th presidential inauguration yesterday, turning America's Main Street into an avenue of checkpoints and confrontations.

Thousands of police officers stood nearly shoulder to shoulder along Pennsylvania Avenue as President Bush began his inaugural parade by cruising through a gantlet of protesters, riding in his armored limousine surrounded by a wedge of SUVs filled with heavily armed officers.

Guests on the dais turn to the flag during the national anthem, including, at left, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and, at right, former counselor Karen Hughes and chief political adviser Karl Rove. (Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)


Washington Post staff members who contributed to this report include Tara Bahrampour, Karlyn Barker, Bill Broadway, David Cho, Michele Clock, D'Vera Cohn, Tim Craig, Alicia Cypress, Susan DeFord, Lila de Tantillo, Daniel de Vise, David S. Fallis, Nicole Fuller, Annie Gowen, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Hamil R. Harris, Peter Hayes, Aruna Jain, Mark Jones, Allison Klein, Fredrick Kunkle, Theola S. Labbe, Allan Lengel, Carol D. Leonnig, Susan Levine, Jerry Markon, Geraldine Marmer, Terence McArdle, Carol Morello, David Nakamura, Amy Orndorff, Joshua Partlow, Bobbye Pratt, Sue Anne Pressley, Olwen Price, Bridget Roeber, Brigid Schulte, Daniele Seiss, Mary Beth Sheridan, Nikita Stewart, Lena H. Sun, Martin Weil, Eric M. Weiss, Vanessa Williams, Yolanda Woodlee, Bruce C.T. Wright and Molli Yood.

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Security was so tight that officers took apples and bananas away from people to eliminate anything that could be thrown. Bags bigger than the prescribed size were confiscated, and spectators were told to leave water bottles outside the checkpoints.

It was the first inauguration held since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the first since the war began in Iraq. Strong feelings engendered by both events were prevalent, whether in the words of Bush's inaugural address or in the chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" that rose spontaneously from a mostly invited crowd when protesters tried to disrupt his speech.

Divisions defined the day. In downtown Washington, miles of security fences and concrete barriers lined the streets, creating a buttoned-down zone unlike any in the city's history, and much larger than authorities described earlier. Police estimated that 265,000 people attended the swearing-in and 150,000 watched the parade. About 10,000 people participated in the parade, which included more than 70 marching bands and 14 floats.

Despite the cold, the overwhelming police presence and the occasional confrontation, the grand show that comes to town every four years went on with all its usual flourish and flair. Last night, nine inaugural balls glittered across the city.

This inaugural experience seemed to depend on where spectators stood in front of the Capitol, along the parade route and on the political spectrum.

Those who came to celebrate Bush's second term weren't about to let anyone ruin their day. When the president neared the end of his inaugural address, several women stood up from seats in front of him and began shouting anti-Bush slogans. As security guards moved in, a man in suit and tie rolled up a snowball and hit one of the women in the face. The crowd stood and cheered.

As Bush spoke, he looked out from the Capitol steps to the Mall and a view of snow-covered Washington and its magnificent sentries, the memorials. The crowd was a blur of fur coats and hats that all but masked the miles of fence thrown up in the name of security in an era of domestic terror.

The increased security around Bush's limousine also reflected that reality, and the president did not get out of the vehicle until his motorcade turned the corner onto the portion of Pennsylvania Avenue that is always closed to traffic. It was the most secure segment of the parade route, lined with bleachers filled with ardent supporters who cheered as he walked the final steps with his wife, Laura.

Anti-Bush demonstrators turned out in greater numbers and with more anger than during the 2001 inauguration. A clash between riot police and demonstrators who were behind a security fence -- during which an officer fell to his knees after being struck in the back by an object thrown at him -- was indicative of the heightened tension, as were the occasional releases of pepper spray by officers in attempts to quell the protesters.

Chilled to the bone and weary from a day of waiting in lines, some spectators said they were nevertheless humbled to have witnessed the inaugural festivities.

"I was happy to be around people who could protest and people who could celebrate, at the same time," said Alison Sorkin, 21, a senior at American University.

Edmund Morris, a biographer of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, said the tensions were the result of the war.

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