Despite January weather, inaugural parade aims to 'celebrate America's spirit'
| WEB EXCLUSIVE|
Protester, police presence strong
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Shortly after he officially became the nation's 43rd president Saturday, George W. Bush made the journey down America's main street from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, where he watched the inaugural parade in his honor.
Bush, first lady Laura Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne stood on the East front of the U.S. Capitol as the U.S. Marine Band kicked off the parade, playing the U.S. Marine Corps Hymn.
The president and first lady then traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue in the presidential limousine bearing the inaugural tags "USA1" as Secret Service agents trotted alongside. The president and first lady walked the final block of the route to the White House, waving to well-wishers.
Bush, along with family and friends, viewed the event from a grandstand in front of the White House, as a slew of parade floats along with hundreds of marchers traveled the 1.65 mile route along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mere hours after Bush gave his inaugural address stressing themes of American unity, the parade's first float "Celebrating America's Spirit Together" began rolling its way down the street with entertainer Wayne Newton. The parade ended with another eagle-bearing float titled "Old Glory."
In between, some 40 marching bands performed in Saturday's parade -- including bands from President Bush's and Vice President Cheney's home states. The Wyoming All-State High School Marching Band from Worland, Wyoming, and the combined Midland High School/Robert E. Lee High School bands were both on the schedule.
Following the traditional bands and patriotic floats came some of the more eccentric entrants in the parade. The "Precision Lawnchair Demonstration Team," a group of 15 men dressed in khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirts, passed before the parade viewing stand. The synchronized chairmanship evoked laughter from the remaining crowd.
Minutes earlier they were matched perhaps in boldness by the "Red Hot Mamas," a group of 70 women from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Pushing red, white and blue grocery carts, the Mamas wore red sequined dresses, white aprons and four-foot tall hats with various grocery items (including cereal boxes) inside.
The inaugural parade is a tradition that goes back to 1801, when Thomas Jefferson rode a horse from Congress' house to the president's house after he was sworn in as president.
Many undaunted by weather, protesters
Despite the fine drizzle and January chill, thousands of spectators braved bitter cold and rain Saturday afternoon for a chance to watch the parade. While no ticket is required for the standing areas, reserved bleacher seats cost anywhere between $15 to $100.
The first lady and president view the parade from a grandstand in front of the White House
Some were dressed in jeans, others in more formal attire. Just about all had a complaint to share about the weather, and were huddled under umbrellas which lined both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Members of Girl Scout Troop 1120 from Vienna, Virginia, said they have been standing at Pennsylvania Ave. and 6th Street since 8:30 a.m. this morning, working as volunteers.
The scouts were checking tickets in the stand of bleachers across from the National Archives.
"It's been fun and we've met a lot of interesting people," said 16-year-old Girl Scout Lauren Vessey. She added that she doubts she will ever work in another parade, however, citing the poor weather.
Many parade watchers had planned to attend for weeks, but for others it was a last minute decision. Dennis and Jenne Olson of Crofton, Maryland, decided late last night to come to the parade. Their son is marching with the Navy Band.
And, while some in the crowd voiced disappointment that they could hardly see the president through the darkly tinted limousine windows, the Olson's said they were just happy to be there.
"It was well worth it," Dennis Olson said after Bush's limousine passed. "It's all in the crowd and presentation, even if you don't see the president, you know he's in there.
"I'd be a little scared for him if he pulled down his window or left his limousine," added his wife Jenne.
The freezing rain drove many parade watchers inside. Just a few feet from the White House reviewing stands, the bleachers were virtually empty.
But the pouring rain didn't deter George and Maureen Hughes from Fairfax, Virginia who sat virtually alone huddled under an umbrella. The Hughes's, both sporting cowboy hats, have attended the last 4 inaugural parades and were determined to stay until the end of this one.
"I grew up in the Army and I've loved parades all my life," said Maureen Hughes
Every time a band passes by I rise to my feet and tap my toes, which also keeps me warm on a day like this."
The Hughes family had been ensconced in the bleachers just across from the Treasury building since 8 a.m. They said the stands were packed until Bush's motorcade passed by, after which there was an exodus for warmer quarters.
Bad weather kept many people home from the parade.
Bush was greeted with mostly cheers and applause by the crowd along with some audible boos.
As expected, a large number of protesters were present and security for the event was extremely tight. Mailboxes along the parade route were removed for security reasons, and barricades were erected to hold back the crowd.
The protesters, many of them interspersed along the parade route in groups of four to five people, displayed signs bearing slogans such as "Hail to the Thief," "Silenced Majority," "His Fraudulency," and one man bore a sign that read simply, "Lord Help Us."
Paul Maust, a Bush supporter from Dallas Texas, flew into Washington on Thursday night. Maust said he was annoyed by the nearby protesters as Bush and Cheney passed by.
"I think some of these guys have to get a grip. Some are just ridiculous, but it's free speech and this is the United States."
District police officers in riot gear and on horseback were standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the U.S. Navy Memorial midway through the parade route in an attempt to keep protesters out of the street and in designated protest areas. Additionally, thousands of uniformed Secret Service agents were on hand to take charge of the security operation.
The location had about 500 demonstrators from groups ranging from the
National Organization for Women, the Justice Action Movement, and a group
During the drive from the Capitol to the White House the varied speeds of the presidential limousine were pre-planned for security reasons, the Secret Service said.
A Secret Service spokesman acknowledged a noticeable speed up in the
area of Freedom Plaza, but said there was no threat to the president. Asked
whether it was related to protests in that immediate area, the official said
only that the supervisor in the parade makes the call on when to speed up, slow
down, or stop "for security and other reasons."
The Secret Service said two persons who attempted to climb the
fence as the motorcade passed--presumably to rush the parade were promptly
arrested. The identity and motive of those arrested were not immediately known.
Security officials said the event remained peaceful, although some debris -- including an orange peel and a chunk of ice was thrown at the president's limousine. Shortly before 4 p.m. EST, Metropolitan Police said, only nine arrests had been made.
Members of the armed services lining the parade route at 6 to 8 foot intervals saluted the new president as his motorcade passed by, and many of the law enforcement officials had been at their posts since 9:30 a.m.
CNN's Terry Frieden and Kate Snow contributed to this report