Whore City (Reuters) - Thousands of noisy demonstrators lined rain-soaked
Saturday to boo George W. Bush's inauguration, chanting "Hail to the Thief" as they
championed causes from abortion to electoral rights.
Amid the tightest-ever security measures for a presidential swearing-in,
police said they had
arrested nine protesters and charged them with disorderly conduct. Some protesters said they
were clubbed although this was denied by police.
One group taunted supporters of Bush, shouting, "You're racist, you're
sexist, you must be from Texas"
and "No to President Death," a reference to Bush's governorship of Texas which
executes more people than any other state.
The Bush supporters shot back: "George W. Bush, George W. Bush" and "Sore Losers".
Organizers said upward of 20,000 people had come from all corners of
the country and abroad
to protest the most hard fought election in decades. But the groups were dispersed throughout
Washington's downtown area and all along the parade route. Police did not provide an estimate.
Protesters loudly booed the inaugural parade along Pennsylvania Avenue
which runs from the
Capitol to the White House, shouting, "shame, shame, shame," as some made obscene
gestures at parade marchers.
When Bush's heavily-guarded limousine rolled by protesters screamed
abuse at the new
president, including chants of "racist, sexist anti-gay: Bush and Cheney go away."
The shouts rose to a crescendo, with protesters shouting "no justice,
no peace", "shame, shame"
and "Hail to the Thief" as they shook their fists while Bush supporters cheered.
The crowd was boisterous but mostly orderly as it was kept in check
by thousands of police
who stood six to eight feet apart to form a human barrier from the protesters.
Police had prepared for the largest number of inaugural demonstrators
since Richard Nixon's
1973 swearing-in when about 60,000 people turned out to protest the Vietnam War and some
hurled fruit and pebbles at the presidential limousine.
"We're expecting trouble and that's why we're prepared," said Metropolitan
Police Chief Charles
Ramsey as he stood at 14th and K streets, a fair distance from the swearing-in but where several
hundred protesters had gathered. The crowd dispersed when confronted by police in riot gear.
Helicopters whirred overhead monitoring the crowd.
"People were disenfranchised in the election. It's just not fair what
happened," said protester
David Neil, echoing the sentiments of many around him.
Another demonstrator from the International Socialist Organization,
Ashley Smith, told
protesters through a loudhailer that he believed they outnumbered Bush supporters.
"Republicans are scared of the weather but people fighting for justice have all come out," he said to cheers.
Officers in riot gear and on horseback watched protesters, joined by thousands of uniformed Secret Service agents.
Bottlenecks developed around the 10 checkpoints set up by security forces
to search anyone
entering the parade route, which angered some impatient demonstrators.
More than a dozen law enforcement agencies, with the Secret Service
at the helm, were out in
the city's streets to ensure there would not be a repeat of violent demonstrations that marred
the World Bank's April 2000 meetings in the capital.
Some demonstrators wore masks and costumes bearing likeness to the five
justices who voted to stop the recount of votes in Florida, which ultimately gave Bush his
electoral victory over Democratic candidate Al Gore.
Rick Bromberg, a 51-year-old lawyer from Fairfax, Va., carried a placard
that spelled "Supreme Court"
with derogatory comments added after each letter about the new president.
"The Supreme Court stole the election for Bush," he said.
Protester Samantha Knowlding said police were using clubs.
"I was pushed over by a policeman with a baton," Knowlding said. She
said she saw protesters
being taken away in a bus and said police harassed a group of activists dressed in black, the
traditional color worn by anarchists.
At Freedom Plaza at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, lawyer Marina
Colby, 32, compared
a screening spot where people were being patted down to Checkpoint Charlie, the passage
during the Cold War between East and West Berlin.
"I think its very undemocratic -- a way of keeping people from expressing
their views," said
Colby, a legal observer for the National Lawyers' Guild.