Demonstrators are vociferous, but nonviolent


WASHINGTON - Throughout the nation's capital yesterday, thousands of protesters took their turn to tell the new president of the United States what they thought of him.

"Hail to the Thief" was the common refrain. So too was "illegitimate." Those waiting around the corner from the White House just booed as George W. Bush's presidential motorcade drove by.

"We drowned out the sound of the band," said Lisa Smith, a 16-year-old student from Baltimore who joined the protesters gathered at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

"People went crazy. All you could hear was booing when they came by."

It was a roar that Smith and her St. Paul's School classmate Keeli Davis won't soon forget. Neither the persistent rain nor the frigid temps kept the teen-agers and thousands of other protesters from gathering at the U.S. Supreme Court, Dupont Circle and Freedom Plaza to voice their displeasure with the Republican president, his policies and his Cabinet choices. They directed their anger not only at Bush, but also at an electoral system that put in him in power and the Supreme Court justices who assured his win.

"It has to be the coolest thing I've ever done," said Davis, of Westminster.

They came from Minnesota and Maryland, Michigan and Massachusetts. And they behaved, nearly to a person.

At the end of the day, District of Columbia police had made only five arrests, according to a police spokesman. Of those, two persons were charged with disorderly conduct, a third with crossing a police line, and a fourth - a juvenile - was charged with simple assault. One person, arrested at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The police spokesman said he had no other details on the circumstances of that arrest.

Security was exceptionally tight this year to ensure that the protests did not disintegrate into the violent demonstrations that marred last year's meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Hundreds of police fanned out across the city, and officers stood five deep along the parade route that was lined with barricades.

When Bush's motorcade neared Freedom Plaza, a gathering area for protesters two blocks from the White House, the presidential limousine sped up. The pace quickened so much so that the Secret Service agents escorting the limousines had to jog to keep up with them.

Many protesters never got a glimpse of the president or his motorcade, though hundreds marched toward the parade route. But it almost didn't matter. To many, what mattered was that they were here, in the nation's capital, standing up for what they believe in.

Kenneth Clark arrived at Dupont Circle yesterday morning with a 6-foot hand-made coffin to protest what he called the "death of democracy." The black cardboard box bore the name "Democracy" in white letters on its side. Clark, 26, of Washington, stayed up until 4 in the morning making the coffin.

"I was just outraged at the whole election process and what happened," the real estate agent said, referring to the vote recount in Florida.

"How the Republicans managed that recount," he added. "Bush is going to be the president for the next four years, but I wanted him to see that the majority of the country doesn't support his policies."

Robert Burk, 30, of Cincinnati was looking for an audience. Clad only in briefs, cowboy boots and a cape made out of an American flag, he strummed a royal blue guitar, and sang, "Who's my president?"

John McCoy, 28, drove to Washington from Princeton, N.J., with a group of fellow graduate students.

"My personal goal is to keep the Bush presidency as conflicted as possible, as much conflict and opposition as we can muster peacefully to protest the Bush inaugural and the Bush presidency," said McCoy, a Texan from Dallas.

Jennifer Pozner, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y., had a different message. A member of the satiric Billionaires for Bush group, Pozner tossed her fake fox stole across her shoulders and declared, "We're not against anything. We're for big money. We believe big money has bought this election for the people."

Satire aside, Pozner said her group is concerned about corporate domination of election campaigns. Republicans, Democrats, it makes no difference, corporations are nonpartisan, she said.

"It's about access and what they want," she said.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, Charles Yates Jr. held a large banner over his head that called for Bush's eviction from the White House.

"I wanted to represent the Housing Authority of America," Yates quipped.

A night hotel manager from Atlanta, the 33-year-old African-American said he used up his frequent-flier miles to come to Washington and join the counter-inaugural protests.

"I think every vote should have counted," he said, repeating a sentiment that was voiced throughout the day.

A dozen police officers lined the steps of the Supreme Court, and they wore helmets and carried batons. A crowd of protesters gathered below them, chanting anti-Bush slogans and carrying signs that read "Supreme Injustice" and "Re-elect Vice President Gore."

"This is the kind of thing that made America," said Joan Pamino, a retired educator from Wayne, N.J. "To sit back and let this happen without demonstrating is un-American."

Barry Summers, a stained-glass artist from Asheville, N.C., paraded in front of the court in a costume and mask that depicted the faces of the five justices who voted to stop the Florida vote recount. If his artistry was elaborate, Summers' political message was not.

"We have an illegitimate president. He wasn't elected. He was appointed by the Supreme Court," Summers said.

Lee Brade also turned up at the Supreme Court with a sign that read "Welcome President Bush." Brade, of Buffalo, N.Y., wasn't made to feel very welcome. Anti-Bush demonstrators shouted him down with the slogan "Hail to the Thief. "

Brade, a retired social worker, countered: "He's your president. Sour grapes!"

But the protesters drowned him out as police escorted Brade away.

Police clashed briefly at midday with a group of black-garbed protesters who marched toward the intersection of 14th and K streets. The protesters who call themselves "anarchists" converged on the corner at about the same time that a voters group arrived from Dupont Circle. The protesters from the voters group veered off down alleys to avoid any trouble. But two of the anarchists were arrested, according to police.

Another group of anarchists tussled with police Seventh and Pennsylvania, where members of the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for Women congregated.

The anarchists, who wore masks and bandannas, pulled down flags at the U.S. Navy Memorial and hoisted black ones of their own, said Colleen Dermody, president of the Maryland NOW group.

But the police and the anarchists soon moved out and the NOW members took back their corner.

"We really feel many of the rights of women that have been hard fought to win, such as the right to choose, for women to decide for themselves about their bodily integrity" may be in jeopardy, Dermody said. "Some of the strides made for women, financially, through education, are going to be threatened in this administration."

Dermody said she came to Washington to stand on this corner to send a message: "I wanted to come down here and say we're going to keep our state, the state of Maryland, on a progressive bent, moving forward, even if on the federal level things may not go that way."

Then, Dermody excused herself and headed back to the street side, "to give our new president the thumbs down."

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