- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

Thousands of law-enforcement officers from scores of local, state and federal agencies ensured that yesterday’s inaugural festivities occurred with little incident, only brief skirmishes between protesters and police.

The nearly 7,000 officers on duty made a few arrests during the inaugural parade. The most serious incident occurred when a small group of protesters tried to charge the secure perimeter and scuffled with authorities.

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested three persons, including a protester who was burning a flag and two who had assaulted officers, said spokesman Quentin Peterson. Two officers were treated for minor injuries.

U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear said officers arrested four women who crossed police lines along Pennsylvania Avenue. The women, who were protesting the wearing of fur, had completely disrobed.

U.S. Capitol Police said five persons were arrested at First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Authorities also took into custody a man who had thwarted inaugural security at the previous two inaugurations, getting close enough to shake hands with President Clinton and President Bush. Richard Weaver was taken into custody at First Street and Independence Avenue SW on an outstanding warrant for trespassing.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Alan Etter said at least 73 persons were treated and 33 of them were transported to hospitals with a range of illnesses and injuries. He said several people were treated after police used pepper spray to disperse protesters at 14th and H streets NW.

John Marshall Park, at Pennsylvania Avenue and Fourth Street NW, was at the center of the demonstrations along the parade route. Protesters with the group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) had a permit to demonstrate and assembled a 20-foot high bleacher, complete with a podium and a sound system.

About 50 counterprotesters from the group Protest Warriors tried to take their signs into the ANSWER rally, but rally organizers refused to let them enter despite a Capitol Police officer’s warning that the space had to remain open.

The entire area between Third and Seventh streets NW, where most of protesters congregated, was closed, with no portable bathrooms and no way to re-enter the area without standing in line again. Construction along Pennsylvania Avenue narrowed sidewalks, making movement difficult.

“They’re just making it more of a hassle than it has to be,” said Natalie Estevez, 26, from Ithaca, N.Y., who was searching for a bathroom. She wore a sign that said, “Bring the troops home now.”

Organizers of a loosely organized protest called Turn Your Back on Bush said about 5,000 people turned away as the presidential limousine passed, but the actual protest looked smaller.

East of Seventh Street, toward the White House, the crowd along the parade route was more solidly pro-Bush, and several spectators were taunting protesters.

Protesters and Bush supporters had spirited debates, which police largely ignored even when they became laced with profanities.

But protesters inside the perimeter provided little trouble — unlike those protesters who remained outside the fences.

Just before the presidential limousine passed Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street NW at about 3:30 p.m., a group of protesters at the steps of the Willard InterContinental Hotel tried to storm a fence keeping them outside the secure perimeter only to be pepper-sprayed by police officers in riot gear.

When it appeared that the situation had calmed, other protesters set fire to a wooden box made to look like a coffin.

A small group continued protesting for the next hour to taunt officers, at times rushing the fence and banging it. Police responded each time by discharging streams of pepper spray.

At one point, a demonstrator made a snowball about the size of an orange and tossed it behind him into a crowd of police and Bush supporters. Within seconds, two large men jumped him, pushed him down to the ground and punched him in the face repeatedly.

A crowd quickly gathered, and women screamed for the beating to stop. Blood was visible on the young man’s face and on the pavement. He was then led away by police.

The entire downtown area, from the Capitol to the White House, was closed to cars. Pedestrians passed through checkpoints, where authorities patted down those attending inaugural events.

The checkpoints became bottlenecked around midmorning, resulting in waits as long as three hours to enter the perimeter.

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