Thu, Jan 20, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Bush's bash will include quite a bit of security


When US President George W. Bush is inaugurated for his second term today, up to 200 central city blocks will be restricted or closed completely to vehicles -- and at least 3,000 police officers will be imported from other jurisdictions.

The event will be highest security inauguration in the country's 229-year history, the first installation of a president since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Bush himself believes the inauguration is "an attractive target for terrorists," he recently told the Washington Post.

People who work near the White House and the parade route have been told which building doors they may enter, and what they may carry. Some streets will have been closed for days before today, and some metro stations will be closed today.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has conceded that the government knows of no credible terrorist threats to the inauguration.

A more likely issue could be protestors along the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue from the landmark Capital building, with its rotunda, where Bush will be sworn in at noon, to the White House. At Bush's first installation, his caravan was pummelled with eggs.

The DC Anti-War Network hopes to spark civil disobedience and will rally in an outlying park and march downtown, where they plan to lie down in the roads. But with all the streets closed to cars, it's not clear who would notice such an obstruction.

Another group, Anarchist Resistance, used its Web site to announce a march and decried the inauguration as "one of the grandest ceremonies of the ruling class."

"Let's bring anarchy to the streets of DC -- make resistance visible, and ring in the next four years with a smash!" the group urges.

A few conservative groups plan rallies to support Bush.

Pennsylvania Avenue was closed at 6pm yesterday as city workers removed streetlights and welded shut manholes. In all, Washington will see traffic limited on a swath of the city more than seven blocks wide and 21 blocks long.

Unprecedented numbers of army canine handlers with explosive- sniffing dogs will be on duty. Horse-mounted US Park Police and military infantry with assault rifles and night-vision goggles will guard against attack. Marines trained to respond to biological and chemical attacks and military engineers trained in collapsed-building rescues will be on standby for a worst-case scenario.

"We all take great pride in not only being prepared for but also several steps ahead of any possible emergency or threat," said Ralph Basham, director of the Secret Service, which protects the president and other dignitaries.

Federal workers across the capital region will get today off as a holiday, estimated to cost US$66 million in lost work time.

Some employees were even supposed to get yesterday afternoon off, in the inner top security region.

Washington Mayor Anthony Williams is upset that the city must foot more than US$17 million, mostly for security, which it says drains resources for crimefighting. Ironically, the city's constituents cannot even vote in national elections due to the capital city's unique status, yet their taxes pay for many of Washington's special needs.

The city has sought extra money from Congress, but Bush administration officials say the city gets about US$80 million a year in extra federal money since Sept. 11 to defray the capital's unique security requirements.

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