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The Emperors coming, The Emperors Coming

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  • The Emperors coming, The Emperors Coming

    This is the heighth of obscenity, a parade for the King, and our tax dollars
    are paying for it. Malaria medicine in Africa is $1.00 per dose, Bush could
    have called off his party and donated 40 million doses. And why are the
    protesters bannished to Siberia? Aren't they Americans?


    Updated: 12:05 PM EST
    Capital Weaves a Steel Cocoon for a Big Party

    By DAVID JOHNSTON and MICHAEL JANOFSKY, The New York Times



    AP


    The inauguration will be a time of celebration for President Bush. But for many
    protesters, it's a day they plan on letting their voices be heard. Details
    Watch: Tight Security

    Talk About It: Post | Chat



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    WASHINGTON - As the capital prepared to celebrate President Bush's
    inauguration, the city appeared on Tuesday more like a place under siege. Hour
    by hour the city of grand buildings and marble statues seemed to disappear
    behind curtains of steel security fences and concrete barriers.

    Piece by piece, the huge security plan that officials promised would be the
    tightest ever in post-9/11 America emerged, temporarily inconveniencing local
    citizens and visitors.

    The authorities estimate that a half-million people or more will come into the
    city for the swearing-in at noon Thursday at the Capitol, and later, for the
    parade along Pennsylvania Avenue. On Thursday night, thousands of people are
    expected to attend formal inaugural balls, private parties and elegant dinners
    that will culminate the celebration.

    Throughout the day on Tuesday, disruptions were the norm. Utility crews with
    acetylene torches snarled traffic as they welded shut manhole covers along the
    route of the inaugural parade. Drivers found no-parking signs, temporary street
    closings and public warnings that 100 blocks of city streets near inaugural
    events would be restricted.

    Pedestrians had it no better. Officials tightened the broad perimeter
    surrounding the Capitol, the parade route and the presidential reviewing stand
    near the White House as construction teams added more security fencing that put
    more of the city's best-known public spaces off limits. People outside at
    lunchtime ducked as fighter jets screamed across the sky at low altitude,
    practicing for the inaugural ceremonial flyby.

    Elsewhere, security teams swept dozens of hotels and office buildings
    overlooking the parade route. Uniformed officers in cruisers from more than a
    dozen law enforcement agencies seemed to be everywhere at once.

    Some tourists ignored the forbidding preparations around them and trudged
    through icy winds to the city's museums and galleries. David Chater, a visitor
    from London, seemed undisturbed.

    Construction workers have been busy preparing for President Bush's inauguration
    ceremony.

    "The most noticeable thing is the physical presence," Mr. Chater said. "The
    barricades and the number of police officers. But it is not unexpected."

    Standing outside a security fence surrounding Lafayette Park near the White
    House, Bonnie McKinney, an advocate for veterans' benefits, was clearly
    annoyed.

    "We obviously have had a security issue in our country, but this is a bit
    ridiculous," Ms. McKinney said. "As a veteran and the daughter of a veteran who
    died in service, I don't appreciate being disenfranchised from what I always
    considered my rights and freedoms."

    She was hardly alone among residents asked to alter their routines to
    accommodate security plans and a long schedule of inaugural events, which began
    Tuesday afternoon with a program to honor American military forces.

    Government workers, who already had been given Thursday off, were being
    encouraged to work from home on Wednesday, the day before the inauguration.
    Local law enforcement officials warned motorists that most downtown streets
    would be off limits. Local officials said that some bus routes would change and
    that some subway stations would be closed.

    "Given the hassle factor and the uncertainties, I'm going to work from home on
    Thursday," said Mit Spears, a lawyer and a Republican whose office is on the
    fringe of the restricted area. "Driving in is just not worth it."

    The heavy security got an unexpected test shortly before 4 p.m. when a man
    driving a red utility van stopped at rush hour in a busy intersection near the
    White House. Joe Gentile, a police spokesman, told reporters that the man
    threatened to ignite himself with fuel inside his vehicle. The authorities
    cordoned off the intersection and evacuated several adjacent buildings.

    With traffic stalled for many blocks, dozens of law enforcement officers and a
    police tactical team converged on the scene. The lone driver, who the
    authorities said was involved in a child custody dispute and possibly harbored
    other grievances, remained inside the van. The standoff continued until 7:55
    P.M. , when the man was taken into custody by the District of Columbia police,
    according to the Secret Service.

    In the skies above the city, the federal aviation authorities prepared to
    impose a no-fly zone that will be in force for private aircraft from 10 a.m. to
    6 p.m. on Thursday. Commercial flights will operate as usual, but the
    authorities are widening the no-fly zone for smaller planes, banning many
    flights within 23 miles of the region's three airports: Reagan National, Dulles
    and Baltimore-Washington International.

    Thousands of federal, state and local law enforcement personnel from around the
    country, from as far away as Seattle, California and Texas, poured into
    Washington Tuesday, reporting to command posts responsible for coordinated
    security, the authorities said. City officials in Washington have estimated
    that the city's share of the bill for providing security at the inauguration
    will be nearly $18 million. Tom Ridge, the homeland security secretary, has
    said that the federal government will spend millions of dollars but that he
    does not know the total amount.

    The decision to impose extremely tight security for the inauguration, even
    though government officials acknowledged there had not been any specific
    threat, has stirred little public complaint, even from Democrats in Congress.
    As final plans proceeded, meteorologists had potentially threatening news for
    Mr. Bush and the spectators expected to attend inaugural events on Thursday.
    Forecasters said that at noon, when he is sworn in, the temperature would be 34
    degrees - 27 degrees on the wind chill index - and that snow might be falling.

    For the afternoon parade, which starts at 2:30, temperatures are expected to
    rise to 37 degrees.

    Thomas J. Basile, spokesman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural
    Ceremonies, which oversees the swearing-in, said committee members and the
    White House would determine by Wednesday night whether plans would proceed as
    scheduled.

    In some ways, cold, snowy weather could aid security and law enforcement
    personnel, reducing the number of spectators, including thousands who have
    promised to protest the inaugural parade by holding up disparaging signs and
    banners as Mr. Bush's motorcade passes.

    One coalition of protest groups, which sued the government last week to
    increase free public access to the 1.7-mile parade route, failed in its effort
    to eliminate bleacher seats that the Presidential Inaugural Committee is
    selling for as much as $125. The coalition argued that the current ticket
    distribution system was designed to fill parade space with Bush supporters.

    But Judge Paul L. Friedman of Federal District Court denied the coalition's
    request for a preliminary injunction, saying the groups had little likelihood
    of success on the merits of their case.


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