By Logan C. Adams,Jessie Bonner,Kathryn Fiegen,Roque Glenn Omanio,Lauren Rivera and Joe Rominiecki
WASHINGTON – Police made several arrests,and a police officer used pepper spray on protesters at a clogged security check point as anti-Bush,anti-war demonstrators tried to get their messages to the re-inaugurated President Bush and his supporters Thursday
Metropolitan Police said there was a “skirmish” at the checkpoint at 7th and D streets NW near the parade route.
Capt. John Crawford,an Alexandria police spokesman helping the D.C. police department,said,“We are not sure if they just rushed the gate or were blocking it. We know the officer deployed pepper spray.”
One person was arrested and two officers were slightly hurt,police said.
Police radios reported several attempts by demonstrators to get through checkpoints and a number of arrests. Some demonstrators looked for places with light police presence to get close to the parade route.
Eight members of a women's peace activist group were dragged away from the Capitol grounds by police during President Bush's inaugural address after they stood on their chairs and shouted,“Bring the troops home,” according to Jodie Evans,a spokeswoman for the group.
Members of CodePink also held banners reading,“No War,” “Out of Iraq Now” and “Bush Mandate: Troops Home Now.”
Two of the women were still being held in police custody as of 4 p.m.,Evans said,while the other six were released shortly after the incident.
U.S. Capitol Police could not confirm the number of arrests on the Capitol grounds as of 4:30 p.m.
U.S. Park Police Sgt. Scott Fear said four arrests were made along the parade route when demonstrators leaped over barriers. The president was not nearby at the time.
Demonstrators in front of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel knocked down at least three sections of metal barriers and set a small fire by a lamppost,which burned out without doing any damage. Police rushed the gates to stop protesters from getting through.
At the 7th and D streets checkpoint,Sue Hack,56,a Census Bureau supervisor from Cleveland waited patiently with her husband and daughter as the protesters began chanting,“Let us in.”
Hack said she was told that the protesters were blocking the security entrance,where few got through over two hours late in the morning.
Barbara A. Ahrens,an art teacher who came from St. Louis with a group of four students,stared at the mass of people gathered there three hours before the parade was to begin.
“We might just go to the Smithsonian,because we don't want to waste our time here,” she said.
Jim Molini,who said he was in his 40s,traveled from Wilmington,Del.,held a sign that read,“Hey,ANSWER,Bush won,America won,stop whining,” in reference to one of the anti-war protest groups.
A computer systems worker and an Army veteran who served in Granada,he was jovial as anti-Bush demonstrators stopped to question him. “I absolutely support President Bush and the war on terror,” he said.
One man who passed by heard what Molini said and shouted,“Bush is terror,you idiot.”
From the Capitol to the White House,individuals and groups showed their feelings about the president.
In McPherson Square near the White House,a group called 1,000 Coffins was building coffins to represent the dead on both sides of the Iraq war.
Jenna Hunt,33,of New York,said the demonstration was trying to bring together the grief both Americans and Iraqis feel over war deaths.
“The message we are trying to send out is one of unity,” she said. “The 1,000 coffins represent the American and Iraqi deaths,and we carry them side by side.”
Coffins draped with American flags represented American war dead,and coffins draped with black represented Iraqi deaths.
Scores of anti-war protesters laid down at 16th and H streets about a block form the White House to symbolize thousands of lives lost as a consequence of U.S. policies here and abroad.
The die-in protest of the D.C. Anti-War Network criticized government policies it said “led to the wholesale slaughter” of people in Iraq and Afghanistan and other “needless deaths” in Haiti,Israel and Palestine.
The government is guilty of crimes against people around the world and it needs to stop,said Peter Perry,the group's spokesman and the protest organizer.
He added the group has no hope that the current government can do so.
He said that because justice might not be possible,the group is calling on people to “nonviolently resist the policies of this government.”
Among those joining the die-in was Ariana LaPort,16,who said she was not affiliated with any group but joined the protest because she had the day off from school.
“I'm here because I think there has been a lot of death and destruction caused by this administration,” she said. “There has been a lot of needless death,and I feel this is what I can do to object.”
Ariana said police had not bothered them yet,adding she didn't care if she got arrested. “If I do,though,it's OK with my mom,” she said.
Another teen had a decidedly different view.
Standing outside the Hart Senate Office Building with friends,Kristin Kressey,18,waved a “Go Bush” sign.
“We're just the biggest Bush fans,” said Kressey,who lives in Yorba Linda,Calif.
“We actually have a cardboard life-size Bush cutout” at home,she said.
Holding a gravestone shaped sign saying “RIP democracy,” Ann Marie Allara,a Boston Pilates studio owner,said,“Democracy is basically dead when large corporations can buy their votes. And only the ultra-elite of this country have a voice.”
Standing a few blocks from the parade route with two friends,she cited examples in which she said “poor people were kept from voting.”
“In Miami,they physically barricaded the way to the polling station so that poor people had obstacles on their way to voting Democrat,” she said.
She said was surprised to find that other people had made similar signs and said she felt empowered to know that others shared her point of view.
Sylvia Kitterman,who is almost 11,said that she wants the Iraq war to end because “I want them to stop killing each other.”
Her step-sister,Victoria Johnson,13,was not as excited by the day's events as her sister but said she also wants to see peace in Iraq. They know more about the war than many children at the parade because their mother is in the Air Force.
Allexiz Johnson,a technical sergeant and a linguist,said she couldn't talk specifically about issues but said she was grateful that the president invited her and others from her unit to an inaugural ball.
The Commander in Chief ball is a new feature of the inauguration this year. Soldiers were invited to the party,which unlike other inaugural balls,was free.
A Vientam veteran,Len Funk,62,of Arlington,Va.,said,“I have protested this war from the beginning.” Funk said he spent four years in Vietnam,while George Bush went to the dentist.
“John Kerry,three purple hearts! George Bush,two cavities!” he said as the surrounding crowd laughed. A worn Kerry-Edwards sticker adorned one side of his jacket,and a Vietnam Veterans of America lifetime-member patch was on the other. In his hands he carried a sign that read,“On Iraq: Hey Bush! Send the Twins!”
Numb and shivering,Dominick Zollo,65,a retired public New York school teacher,waited for hours to catch a glimpse of the highly secured parade route at 3rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW near the Capitol.
“I've been here since around 7 a.m.,but I don't mind. I want American to hear how disgusted I am with Bush,” said Zollo,who is from Queens,N.Y.
“I love this country,but I don't like the way things are going with the Bush administration,” Zollo said.
He has been collecting news clips describing President Bush and recorded on index cards 50 words that “distinctly describe Bush,” including “spoiled brat,” “mean spirited,” “liar” and “warmonger.”
Connie Delgado,55,of Long Beach,Calif.,flew overnight Wednesday to protest at Thursday's inauguration.
“I have two sons and I would not be proud for them to go to Iraq. Our troops are worth more than oil,” she said.
Nearby,the owner of a political merchandise Web site stood and watched the crowd.
William Young,45,lives near San Francisco and operates Democratshop.com. He called himself a John Kerry supporter but disagreed with the protesters' tactics.
“This protest mess just creates a logjam that ends up denying access to the people they're trying to protect,” he said.
He suggested other ways to promote liberal causes.
“If you want to save the redwoods,buy them. If you want to develop solar energy,invest in it,” he said. “They need to cultivate candidates,not bumper stickers. The Republicans are beating us because it's their game.”
He shook his head as he looked at the crowd and said,“This is not way to make change. It's a waste of time.”