Thousands of people in dozens of cities across the nation walked out of work and school, held mock coronations, intoned the names of the Iraq war dead and held candlelight vigils to show their disapproval of President Bush as he was sworn in for his second term.
From Bridgewater, Mass., to San Francisco, the protesters carried a similar message Thursday, deploring the war in Iraq, angry about the Patriot Act and concerned about the next four years.
“The administration thinks it’s got a mandate to continue its policies,” said David Williams, a 49-year-old construction company owner from Oakland, Calif., who wore a T-shirt to the San Francisco march with Bush’s picture and the description, “International Terrorist.”
“This is my way of saying, ’I don’t think so.’ The Bush administration has no respect for human rights outside the United States and they have no respect for people anywhere else in the world,” he said.
'Jazz funeral of democracy' in New Orleans
Crowds were larger than organizers expected in some communities — more than 1,500 people took to the streets of New Orleans in a “jazz funeral of democracy,” an event that took on the appearance of a lugubrious Mardi Gras ball, a raucous street protest, Halloween freak show and traditional New Orleans jazz funeral rolled into one.
About 1,000 people rallied in Seattle, more than 2,000 in Portland, Ore., and several thousand gathered in downtown San Francisco, where protesters waved signs and carried banners with slogans such as “Not Our President,” “Drop Bush Not Bombs,” and “Hail To The Thief.”
There were dozens of smaller rallies, marches and walkouts as well. Two hundred protesters filled a city block marching through downtown Atlanta, 150 marched on the state capitol in Lincoln, Neb., and in Denver, several hundred demonstrators were joined at the state Capitol by a group of women wearing witches’ hats who chanted “We’ve been under a spell.” The crowd cheered when they added “But we are waking up.”
In Santa Cruz, Calif., about 250 marchers followed a 20-foot-tall Statue of Liberty puppet to the Town Clock in a demonstration where former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern was the featured speaker.
Many demonstrators said the protests were galvanizing, a way to motivate anti-Bush activists.
“We need to build a massive movement for change in this country because it’s going to be a bleak four years,” said Margo Polley, an organizer with Not in Our Name, which sponsored rallies at the federal courthouse in Seattle.
Besides those in Washington, D.C., there were few arrests — one in Seattle, and another in Portland, Ore., where clusters of Bush supporters got into shouting matches with protesters as they marched by.
But hundreds clashed with police in the nation’s capital at the inaugural parade. Gary Gillespie, an activist in Baltimore, said he had planned to travel the 35 miles for the larger demonstrations, but decided “local action” was important.
Many demonstrators said they deliberately avoided watching or listening to the inauguration.
“I missed the whole thing, thank goodness,” said Pat Neary, 62, a real estate agent who joined about 50 people gathered on the snowy town common in Bridgewater, Mass.