- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2001

U.S. Park Police officers allowed hundreds of protesters to overtake bleachers reserved for ticket holders at the inaugural parade after Interior Department officials told the officers to "back off," according to police sources.
"This was over our heads," a police source said, noting that park police had eight to 10 officers stationed by the bleachers at Freedom Plaza, which is at the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW and the scene of some of the most lively protests on Inauguration Day.
"We were told to pull back," the police source said, adding that anyone with a problem should "call and complain to the Department of the Interior."
Sometime Saturday morning, hundreds of protesters converged on the checkpoint behind the bleachers on the parade route. After getting through security, they made their way to the bleachers reserved for people holding "green" tickets.
The stands, which had a clear view of the parade and the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, were soon filled with a crowd of protesters too large for the group of officers to handle on its own.
"They kept coming so [organizers] told us to move," Crissi Bailey, 17, said. "We didn't expect this. This is really crazy." Crissi, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Md., and a member of Girl Scout Troop 1135, was one of hundreds of Boy Scout and Girl Scout volunteers on hand to help ticket holders find their seats.
"There were people up there, but they were getting harassed, so they left," said fellow Girl Scout Lauren Richardson, 15, a sophomore at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Md.
Organizers then allowed ticket holders who had been turned away from their assigned seats to sit in a nearby section of bleachers.
Sources said the park police, who were primarily responsible for crowd control in the area, were told to let the protesters take over the bleachers because of public safety concerns.
The number of protesters arrested during the celebration was small, with reports varying from six to nine persons among the thousands who showed up for the parade.
The protesters' causes ran the gamut from animal rights to the release of a journalist who killed a Philadelphia police officer to displeasure with how the contested election was handled.
The order to let them take over the bleachers came from someone at either the National Park Service or elsewhere at the Department of Interior, the sources said.
Officials with the secretary's office at Interior and the park service were not available for comment yesterday.
Peter G. LaPorte, director of the District's Emergency Management Agency, said it may have been a good thing the protesters were left alone in the stands because they were mostly in one place.
"They were cheering for four hours, but once the president came by" in his limousine at the head of the parade, the protesters left, Mr. LaPorte said.
Evan Woodward, 19, a student at George Washington University, said the only reason he and other protesters took over the bleachers at Freedom Plaza was because the stands weren't supposed to be there in the first place.
"We applied for a permit [to protest] eight months ago," Mr. Woodward said. "They built on top of the permit."
Meanwhile, the cleanup of the city began right after the parade ended, Mr. LaPorte said, with most of the work done by 6 a.m. yesterday.
Once the parade ended, about 250 workers from the D.C. Department of Public Works were evenly divided between those dealing with the falling snow and those cleaning up after the parade, Mr. LaPorte said. The parade cleanup will cost the city just under $900,000, which is part of the $5.9 million the city was given by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Mr. LaPorte said.
Pennsylvania Avenue was fully restored to a working street, too, as workers reinstalled signal lights and removed the gates that separated the crowds and the police who lined the parade route.
Some of the cleanest places around the city yesterday were Metro stations, where more than 463,000 passengers caught a train Saturday.
More than a third of the money given to the city by the inaugural committee $2.3 million was budgeted for D.C. police, but Mr. LaPorte said the police department was already about $200,000 over that.
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey has indicated that his department is already having difficulty recouping costs of providing security during last spring's World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, where hundreds of protesters tested the mettle of the city's police.
"We need to make sure we can reimburse other jurisdictions" that helped provide security on Saturday, Mr. LaPorte said, adding that the money from the inaugural committee for police did not include reimbursement for localities helping with security.
Mr. LaPorte said the city might need to "knock on Congress' doors" to get the money.
Although most of the parade route was cleared of debris by yesterday morning, trash remained at Freedom Plaza and some spots near the White House, but much of it was either frozen to the ground or underneath the bleachers.
The bleachers, Mr. LaPorte said, are the park service's responsibility and will be removed by midweek.
The massive presidential reviewing stand in front of the White House, however, will remain a little longer, Mr. LaPorte said.
One area along the parade route that seemed not to have been touched was by the National Archives.
At a small park in the 600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, a statue of Union Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock on a horse stands amid throngs of pigeons and squirrels fighting for the crumbs left behind by spectators.


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