(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of onlookers crowded the inaugural parade route Thursday, hoping to catch a glimpse of the newly inaugurated President on his way back to the White House.
Increased security was so tight that police took water bottles and cans away from spectators as they passed through security tents. Strollers, water bottles and even fruit were not allowed on the parade route, for fear they would become thrown projectiles. This year, spectators could only enter the parade route through security checkpoints, which were located along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route. Some people waited over an hour to pass through checkpoints.
“I waited over an hour to get into the swearing in,” said George Washington University senior Jamie Panzarella. “The lines were long, but expected.”
Some however, were lucky and made it easily through the security checkpoints.
“I was really surprised, but it only took us 15 minutes to get through security,” said George Washington University Junior Vin Rohloff. “There was a ton of [security]. I was really expecting DC to be in a lockdown mode.”
“The security seemed a little ridiculous, but pretty normal for anything post-9/11 dealing with the president,” said Georgetown University senior Jeanette Cunningham.” Its understandable.”
“I would say 1/4 of my waiting time was because there was not a female agent available to search the women in my line,” said Panzarella. At some checkpoints, spectators reported being split into lines for men and women, as security personnel patted down everyone coming through.
The crowd seemed to reflect the electorate, a majority of Bush supporters, with some Kerry Democrats and left and right extremists sprinkled in. Many came just to be a part of history.
“I’m not completely in support of President Bush, I voted for Kerry, but I’m hoping he [Bush] can pull through,” said Rohloff. “To see this parade is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Besides the presidential motorcade with the license plate USA 1, several university and high school marching bands from across the country followed in the parade. The President and Mrs. Bush gave the long horn sign to the University of Texas marching band as they crossed in front of the White House.
“The marching groups were interesting but not enough to make it worth the cold,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham waited two hours for the parade to begin.
This was the first inauguration held since Sept. 11 as well as the first since the beginning of the War in Iraq. Hundreds of protesters showed up outside the security fence, shouting “Shame on You,” and “Not our President.”
“I thought that the parade was less interesting that the protestors,” said Cunningham. Cunningham watched the parade from within the security perimeter about 200 feet from the protesters.
The D.C. Police Department used tear gas to break up protesters along the parade route who were pushing and shoving and in front of the Willard Intercontinental where protesters broke through the security fence. U.S. Capitol Police reported arresting five individuals.
“I thought the protesters were actually behaving themselves. I mean yeah they were yelling and protesting, but I have seen protesters act worse than that,” said Rohloff. “It could have been a lot worse.”
Protesters threw shrubs and other objects at police in an attempt to tear down the security fence. They also burned American flags and attempted to set fire to red, white and blue bunting draped on the National League of Cities building.
“I thought they did get a bit rowdy, especially when the flames from one of the fires soared above the top of the barricades, and they started throwing stuff at the police,” said Panzarella. “I can understand if you are upset that Bush won, but hate the president, not the country.”
Due to the increased security, President Bush and the First Lady did not walk the parade route until the final steps in front of the White House, where security was the tightest. Tickets were required to get a seat on parade bleachers, and many spectators complained there was no room for those without tickets.