- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Most downtown streets and all 309 acres of the Mall will either be restricted or completely closed to motorists during the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, federal officials said yesterday.

“Security will be at the highest levels that it has ever been for any inauguration,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Mr. Ridge called the inauguration “the greatest manifestation of who we are and what we stand for in our country.” He also said government officials would “do whatever we need to do” to protect inauguration participants and D.C. residents.

He announced details of the security plan at a morning press conference on the Mall near the Capitol while flanked by a small group of armed soldiers in full battle gear. The soldiers will not be visible during the inauguration unless an incident occurs, but they were part of a sizable display of force and technology by military and law enforcement personnel yesterday.

“Protective measures will be seen, [but] there will be quite a few that are not seen,” Mr. Ridge said. He also said an attempt to disrupt the inaugural will be “repelled by multiple layers of security.”

The far-reaching road restrictions — from Capitol Hill to as far west as George Washington University — is one indication of how security has been increased since the September 11 terrorist attacks, which occurred after Mr. Bush was first sworn into office in January 2001.

In addition to the road closing and restrictions around the parade route, officials have also closed streets around the Washington Convention Center because six of the nine inaugural balls will be held there.

About 750,000 people are expected downtown for the inauguration and the parade, said Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, commander of the Military District of Washington. About 250,000 of them will watch theswearing-in at noon on the West Front of the Capitol.

Mr. Ridge said he expected the federal government to spend millions on the inauguration, but he could not give an exact amount.

City officials said they still did not know whether the White House will give them about $12 million toward the $17 million they will spend on security.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget has already said the federal government has diverted major resources to help with security and that the city can use funds from Homeland Security grants.

“We’re going to continue to have conversations,” City Administrator Robert Bobb said. “I’m optimistic. I have to be.”

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he has yet to examine whether using the grants would deplete resources for future events.

About 6,000 officers from 60 agencies and jurisdictions outside the area will be in the city for the inauguration.

Chief Ramsey said that he did not know how many protesters to expect.

The 2001 inaugural parade route was lined by the most protesters since the 1973 inauguration of President Richard M. Nixon.

Mr. Ridge said there are no specific threats right now, but that does not mean officials will be less vigilant.

The security force on display yesterday included U.S. Marines trained in responding to chemical- and biological-weapon attacks and Army engineers trained in rescue from collapsed buildings and tight spaces.

Mr. Ridge said that security at city hotels will be increased to protect the buildings and ventilation systems, and that key transportation systems will be closely monitored.

Metro’s plans include closing its Archives and Smithsonian stations during the parade and speeches.

Metropolitan police will activate a network of 14 closed-circuit surveillance cameras on Tuesday at noon, and will deactivate the cameras and their Joint Operations Command Center the day after the inauguration at noon.

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