Anti-war sentiments unite protesters at inauguration

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Minutes before President Bush's parade motorcade passed Fourth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Celeste Zappala held up a photo of her dead son and urged hundreds of protesters not to give up pleading for peace in Iraq.

"My son died looking for weapons of mass destruction, but instead of finding a weapon, the weapon found him," said Zappala, a 57-year-old Philadelphia resident, wiping away tears. Her son, Sherwood Baker, a National Guardsman, died last April in Baghdad when he was struck by debris from an explosion.

No one message yesterday unified the thousands of protesters who descended on Washington like the calls to end the Iraq war.

Tearful mothers of dead soldiers shouted: "No Justice, No Peace. U.S. Out of the Middle East!" Angry college students wore signs emblazoned with a picture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that read "Stand Against War and Racism." And graying retirees from New England smiled and waved peace signs at stone-faced police officers.

A handful of protesters found their way onto the Capitol grounds for the inauguration ceremony. Protests were scattered throughout downtown Washington, from a march for abortion rights at DuPont Circle to an anti-war rally at Meridian Hill Park, ending in a "Die-in" at McPherson Square.

Police said at least 10 people were arrested. Sgt. Scott Fear of the U.S. Park Police said four women who were protesting the wearing of furs were arrested after they disrobed in the near-freezing temperatures. District of Columbia police said they used pepper spray to break up a "push and shoving match" between officers and protesters.

The hub of protest activity was at the bleachers strategically set up at Fourth and Pennsylvania, the start of the parade route. The International ANSWER Coalition - Act Now to Stop War & End Racism - obtained a city permit to set up the "Counter Inaugural Demonstration." It featured more than 20 speakers, including student activists, labor organizers and Georgia Democratic Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney.

"The wonderfully scruffy and faithful people who come to say 'No' - that's where the hope lies," said Zappala of the protesters.

Organizers estimated more than 1,000 anti-war protesters gathered in the area, one of the rare spots along the parade route that wasn't reserved for GOP ticket holders.

"Look at [Bush's] face, he disgusts me," said Emily Ott, 19, a college student from Williamsport, Pa., pointing at a sign carried by her brother Gene. It featured glossy head shots of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush Cabinet that Gene Ott called "the usual suspects."

"I look at him and I see a liar, not an honest soul," Emily Ott said of Bush.

Along the parade route, some protesters urged creative ways to express their dissatisfaction with Bush's "re-coronation," as some of them called it.

Others, in a silent display of discontent, turned their backs on the president's motorcade.

"I just don't want to be a part of anything violent; I'd rather just turn my back," said Peter Woodruff, a maintenance mechanic from Arrowsic, Maine.

Said Zappala: "I turn my back on the lies, on the death that he represents. I do this not just for my family, but the 1,300 other military families of the dead soldiers. And all of the dead Iraqis."

Meanwhile, those at the ANSWER demonstration stuck to traditional slogans and shouting.

Signs read: "Worst President Ever," and "Bring home gay and lesbian soldiers now," and "Books not Bombs."

Amid the cluster of protesters at Fourth Street, there were only a few confrontations, including one between anti-war protesters and an opposition group calling itself Protest Warriors.

Shortly after the parade started, one protester hurled an egg at a black-tinted limousine in the heavily secured motorcade. A Secret Service officer ducked to avoid being hit.

Elsewhere, protesters complained they were unable to get through security checkpoints, while Bush supporters elsewhere waited only minutes.

"I think it would have been really effective if they could all be together," said Josh Blackburn, 19, a sophomore at Ohio University, who tried to enter a checkpoint at Seventh and D streets, where a shouting match erupted between a handful of Bush supporters and scores of protesters.

"But it's so sad, they are keeping them apart," he said. "It seems like wherever the Bush supporters are, there are no hassles."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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