THERE WERE, in the end, protesters along the route of President Bush's inaugural parade. It is conceivable that the president might have even caught a glimpse of them. What there were not nearly enough of, however, were ordinary people: Washingtonians, out-of-towners or anyone at all who was neither a Bush donor with tickets to the bleachers nor a demonstrator with a permit to wave a sign. This was not an accident. In advance of the inauguration, the National Park Service granted the Presidential Inaugural Committee exclusive rights to nearly all of the sidewalk space along Pennsylvania Avenue, space to which the public had no access. When Post reporters asked the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the D.C. police this week where the public would be able to stand, no answer was forthcoming. Grudgingly, a Park Service spokesman said on Wednesday that the public might be able to find some open areas east of Seventh Street or west of 12th Street, a statement that did not exactly encourage casual parade-goers.
Reports from those who did try to attend varied. Some stood for hours in the cold, trying to get through checkpoints. Some reported swifter entrance. But many, we fear, simply didn't bother to go, discouraged by the unwelcoming atmosphere of the inauguration with the heaviest security in history, the negative advance publicity, the closed streets and the phalanx of police officers lined up to protect the politicians from the people. Maybe that's what the post-Sept. 11 world has to look like, but on a day ostensibly dedicated to the spread of freedom around the world, it wasn't the best advertisement for American freedom either.