An impromptu demonstration by a crowd spilling from a "counter-inaugural ball" in Adams Morgan late Thursday turned into one of the biggest Inauguration Day disturbances, leaving windows smashed and nearly 80 people arrested.
Self-described anarchists, fans who had attended the punk-rock ball and passersby joined in a melee in the area of 18th Street and Columbia Road NW, where police said they spray-painted buildings with the red "A" anarchists use as their symbol, threw a brick through the windshield of a police vehicle and smashed out glass windows and doors at a police substation and at Riggs Bank and Citibank branches.
Police take into custody a few of the nearly 80 people arrested Thursday after a march into Adams Morgan resulted in property destruction.
(Photos Michael Temchine For The Washington Post)
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"It is just ridiculous how some people conducted themselves," Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday. "It's not a reflection on all demonstrators. But a hard-core group came to town and caused damage to property. . . . You can't let them destroy the city. Nobody has a right to do that.
"They are just thugs and hoodlums who did that," Ramsey said.
Of 72 people arrested on misdemeanor charges of parading without a license, 67 were released after paying a $50 fine, and two were released but are required to appear in court later. Three others were released yesterday after spending the night in jail. Police said six juveniles also were charged with curfew violations.
Damage resulting from the incident was estimated at $15,000, police said.
The crowd of a couple hundred people was made up of anarchists who had attended the ball and several inaugural demonstrations earlier in the day, as well as people who decided on a whim to join the noisy, late-night procession. Police said the demonstrators were mostly in their early- to mid-twenties and largely came from out of town.
Nathan Bladh, 21, a jeweler from Escondido, Calif., in town to protest the inauguration, was outside the 18th Street NW hostel where he was staying when the protesters streamed by.
"We thought it would fun to join in," he said.
A few minutes later, Bladh was kneeling in the snow, having been arrested by police who surrounded the demonstration. Bladh later paid a $50 fine. He also went to Superior Court yesterday to support a friend who had been arrested, one of the three people who appeared before Magistrate Judge Richard H. Ringell.
Protesters said that police were aggressive and that some officers used pepper spray on protesters who already had been restrained. Police officials said they received no reports of misconduct or internal affairs complaints. Police Cmdr. Cathy Lanier, who supervises the department's special operations division, said she had no choice but to make arrests because the crowd had become rowdy and violent.
"This was a group of a couple hundred that wanted to rampage through the streets of the city," Lanier said.
The incident was the last of at least three confrontations between police and demonstrators Thursday.
They were provoked in large part by demonstrators who identified themselves as anarchists. Throughout rallies and marches protesting Bush's second swearing-in, the anarchists were more aggressive than their mostly peaceful antiwar peers.
The late-night vandalism occurred in an ethnic and cultural hub of Washington far removed from the downtown symbols of government. But one marcher said the property destruction, particularly at Citibank and the police substation, was done for political purposes to protest businesses and institutions responsible for exploitation and oppression.
D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) criticized protesters for damaging property in an area of town that is largely liberal and diverse.
"Adams Morgan is not associated with the Republican Party," he said. "We are not the home of George W. Bush."
The trouble began shortly after 11 p.m., after the ball ended. The show, a benefit concert at Calvary Methodist Church at 1459 Columbia Rd. NW organized by Washington area activist group Positive Force DC, featured Anti-Flag and other acts.
The demonstrators marched from the church. A participant said they were heading for the Constitution Ball at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Connecticut Avenue NW, scheduled to end at 1 a.m. Some of the marchers carried tin-can torches, and they held banners with such slogans as, "The people of the world say no to war."
Protesters unfurled a large banner reading, "From D.C. to Iraq, with occupation comes resistance," from a building with a Starbucks on the ground floor.
Carniel Klirs, 19, a sophomore at American University who was among those arrested, said marchers switched directions several times to thwart police. "When we saw cops to the left, we turned right," said Klirs, who paid $50 and was released. "When they were ahead of us, we turned back."
Staff writer Henri Cauvin and staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.