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U.S.: Balls, Banquets And Protests Mark Start Of Bush's Second Term

  • Andrew Tully

http://gdb.rferl.org/B8AF7B8E-F3FE-4F0F-8FF2-B37E98EB25C8_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/B8AF7B8E-F3FE-4F0F-8FF2-B37E98EB25C8_mw800_mh600.jpg Bush during the swearing-in ceremony The weather was bitterly cold in Washington today as George W. Bush was sworn in for a second term as president of the United States. And despite the cheers from supporters at the Capitol, there also were protests by Americans opposed to the war in Iraq and Bush's economic policies. But security was tight, keeping the festivities free of any possible attacks or disruption by demonstrators.

Washington, 20 January 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The festivities surrounding the inauguration began more than 12 hours before Bush took the oath of office, and they set the tone for a day of celebration.

Last night, the president attended what was called a "Black Tie and Boots Ball" in Washington, a formal event with a cowboy accent held by the Texas State Society.

Bush and his wife, Laura, attended the gala, where 10,000 guests sported cowboy hats and boots in addition to formal wear. The president thanked his supporters for honoring the beginning of his second term.

"It's nice to be home [cheers and applause] -- well, as close to home as you can get in Washington [more cheers and applause]," Bush said.

Bush also appeared at an outdoor concert and display of red, white, and blue fireworks and told supporters that America will always stand up for freedom around the world.

The president struck a more serious note today in his inaugural address, stressing what is becoming the foreign policy theme of his second term: helping spread democracy around the globe.
"I'm here because it's time to show this president that he has no mandate, that it's time to bring the troops home, it's time to have peace." -- Protestor Kerry Biggs-Adams.


"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," Bush said.

Tight Security

Bush's foreign policy was the target of many of some 40 groups that held demonstrations around the city. None of the protests was allowed near the site of Bush's swearing-in, because of tight security. Demonstrations near the festivities were limited to a small stretch of the two-mile parade route; others were held miles away.

There were fears that terrorists might seek to disrupt the first presidential inauguration since the attacks of 11 September 2001. But officials said there was no evidence of any possible attacks.

More than 100 streets were closed with miles of metal barricades. Snipers were stationed on rooftops and dogs trained to sniff out explosives were in evidence. More than 6,000 law enforcement officials from around the country were on duty.

The total cost for such tight security is estimated at $17.3 million.

Protest groups included one that calls itself "Billionaires for Bush." They criticized what they call Bush's "tax cuts for the rich," which they say will reduce benefits for the needy.

Another was the Women's March and Funeral Procession, which opposes the war in Iraq. At that event was Kerry Biggs-Adams.

"I'm here because it's time to show this president that he has no mandate, that it's time to bring the troops home, it's time to have peace. I have two daughters -- one 18, one 15 -- and we have to make a better world for them," Biggs-Adams said.

Not everyone in the streets opposed Bush. In fact, half a million people were expected to take part in at least one of the celebrations. Of them, about 250,000 were present outside the Capitol at midday when Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were sworn under cold, gray skies.

One person who disregarded the protests was Michael Bergdorf from nearby Ellicott City, Maryland. He said the inauguration of a president should be met with joy as it represents the orderly transfer, or continuation, of power in a stable democracy.

"It's always been a celebration. And inauguration always has to be a celebration because it celebrates the ability of our government to be able to transcend [transfer power] between one administration to another or the continuation of an administration. So I personally think that this is really a day to honor more so our government's ability to do that rather than to honor a person," Bergdorf said.

Inaugural events were scheduled to last far into the night. They included three dinners and an estimated 55,000 people are expected to attend nine official inaugural balls.
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