5000 Police Officers Protected 'Timberwolf'
By Elsa Walsh
When an exuberant George Bush got out of his limousine to greet the crowds Lining his parade route yesterday, he was covered by security in Washington at its peak.
From sewer manholes rooftops and the skies above, little was left to chance as the new president moved from one site to another in a protective beehive made up of a dozen law enforcement agencies and monitored by sophisticated command centers across the city. Even the 1,250 scouts taking part in the inaugural festivities underwent advance Secret Service security clearance, and Mitch Snyder,advocate of the homeless, was approached by four law enforcement agencies after he was seen walking near the parade route.
"I thought it was very funny, and then I thought it very silly, and then I thought it was very 'Big Brother'" Snyder said, describing how he was asked if he planned any activity along the route. "But I understand--their job is to make sure the nothing out of the way happens if they have any hint that something is they have to check it out."
Law enforcement officials reported yesterday afternoon that the tight security, hammered out over the last several months, paid off, with only a few minor incidents marring an otherwise flawless day observed by what one police officially described as a "well-mannered" crowd.
Seven early morning bomb threats sent police and trained dogs scurrying along the parade route, but proved to be hoaxes. As of early last night, only two adults had been arrested for inaugural-related violations--one for crossing a police line and the other for disorderly, conduct. Four juveniles charged with carrying a prohibited weapon--a BB gun they were seen passing among themselves along the parade route. All six suspects were later released.
A propane gas fire that engulfed a hot dog stand and a "T-shirt stand on 15th St. NW before the start of the inaugural parade resulted in no injuries. And demonstrators, who police had worried might disrupt the procession down Pennsylvania Avenue, remained on the sidewalks.
Medical personnel who staffed,emergency centers around the city and who brought 35 ambulances to supplement the city's fleet said most injuries appeared to be crowd related. By late afternoon, 15 persons, including four who suffered heart-related ailments, had been taken by ambulance to city hospitals.
"People are rushing and not eating-that's usually what causes the trouble," said Mary Berkeley, making her sixth appearance as coordinator of the District's medical coverage for an inauguration.
Security planning for the day, which officially started for Bush with a 9 a.m. service at St. John's church on Lafayette Square, began last summer.
By the time the Bush motorcade left Blair House yesterday morning, law enforcement officers had been manning their stations for hours.
Around-the-clock security had been set up at the various sites, including the swearing-in platform at the Capitol and the reviewing stand in front of the White House, and officials were place at the Command centers.
At the D.C. police department's Command Information Center, nearly 40 officials from various police and security agencies were in constant contact w ith~the more.than 5,000 law enforcement officers on the street. Information about possible problem sites,- including expected demonstrations and persons considered possible threats to "Timberwolf" - Bush's Secret Service code name--was flashed on a large screen in the front of the room. Outside the command center, thousands of police officers, military personnel and Secret Service agents lined the parade route, circled the Capitol and ushered parade Participants through metal detectors, in use at an inauguration for the first time.
The detectors were set up at four entrances the Capitol area to move the crowd quickly through the screening process, which included checks of purses and camera equipment. Few people seemed bothered by the tightened security.
Tight security also was in evidence along the l.7-mile parade route, with sharpshooters stationed on rooftops along the way. In the 300 block of Constitution Avenue NW, where about 100 people demonstrated, nearly 200 law enforcement officers, standing little more than 10 feet apart, lined both sides of the street.
As the Bush motorcade moved down Constitution Avenue; the flanks of officials, who had been warned to expect spontaneity from the new president, turned to face the crowd.
"He's walking!", a woman with an elevated perch near New Jersey Avenue shouted, as Bush and his wife Barbara approached. The crowd pushed forward but the Bushes were back in their stretch limousine by the time they reached the intersection.
Staff writers Michael Abramowitz, Victoria Churchville, Lynne Duke, Nancy Lewis and Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.
Washington Post Staff Writer