Demonstrators rally as the parade for the inauguration of U.S. President George W. Bush passes by on Pennsylvania Avenue Jan. 20, in Washington, D.C. Angry protesters jeered and railed at Bush�s inaugural parade as his limousine rolled past whisking him to another four years in the White House. Photo: AFP

WASHINGTON ( – Flag-draped coffins and anti-war chants competed with pomp and circumstance along the snow-dusted, barricaded streets of central Washington Jan. 20 at President George Bush’s inauguration. More than 10,000 protested the swearing in here, and thousands more protested in dozens of other cities in this country and abroad.

Mr. Bush was sworn in for a second term amid the tightest security in inaugural history. The chants: “Hell no, we won’t go! We won’t go for Texaco” and other anti-war slogans were even heard in front row seats by audience members near the stage. The chanting got so loud, it prompted the loudest applause during the President’s speech, when supporters clapped and chanted “U.S.A. U.S.A.” in order to drown out anti-Bush protestors.

Except for two demonstrators who managed to get tickets to the swearing-in, where they booed during Mr. Bush’s speech until they were escorted away, there was little criticism of Mr. Bush available from Congressional Democrats anywhere near the speaker’s platform.


“By some estimates, President Bush said the word ‘freedom’ more than 25 times,” Rep. Jose Serrano told The Final Call shortly after Mr. Bush’s inaugural address. “Now, there’s nothing wrong with the word ‘freedom.’ In fact, it’s a great word. But when you use it so much to cover up the fact that you have no other explanation for the failure in Iraq, and that you’re trying to sell the people on your belief that this is about freedom. It’s not about freedom, it’s about a mistake we made.”

For his part, Mr. Bush pledged to purge the world of undemocratic governments, saying “Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors.” He said the spread of liberty around the world was the “calling of our time.”

Some of Mr. Bush’s comments were laced with references from the Bible and Christian hymns. There was, in fact, a deliberate “Armageddon Code” hidden in the remarks, according to one observer.

“We did a Top-10 list of Bush’s lies and Armageddon references,” Carl Dix, national spokesman for the Revolutionary Communist Party, told The Final Call. “(Mr. Bush) said: ‘From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights and dignity and matchless value because they bear the image of the maker of Heaven and Earth.’ And he was saying this about a country that was forged by dragging African people to these shores in slavery’s chains and carrying out genocide against the native inhabitants.

“Toward the beginning of the speech, he talked about America having undergone a ‘day of fire,’ Sept. 11,” Mr. Dix continued. “Throughout the speech, he refers to fire. If you look at it scientifically, fire is referring to combustion. But in a Biblical context, particularly in a fundamentalist context, fire refers to the wrathful punishment of a vengeful god. And he cites fire four times in his speech, clearly meaning Sept. 11. When you look at some of the leading Christian fascists, they speak to things like Sept. 11 and the punishment of a vengeful god.

“Later in the speech, Bush said, by our efforts, we have lit a fire as well, a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of the world. The message, the wrath that is brought down on those who fight progress is really the wrath of God inflicting this wrath. And those inflicting this wrath, like the U.S. invading countries around the world are just doing God’s work.

“The farther away from the Capitol it seems, the stronger the protests against the new “Bush Policy” became. About 500 people rallied in what’s called Malcolm X Park miles from the Capitol. Protesters covered hundreds of cardboard boxes with black cloth and American flags to symbolize U.S. troops and others killed in Iraq. Signs read, “Worst President Ever” and “Four more years: God HELP America.” Dozens of flags were hung upside down on fences, the naval signal meaning “distress.”

“It’s important to show that when Bush’s second inauguration goes into the record books, there was healthy dissent,” Jared Maslin of Hanover, N.H., told a reporter.

At a mock inauguration in Baltimore, Md., a woman wearing a Bush mask gave a pretend speech, stumbling over her words, and a guitarist played Bob Dylan’s “Gates of Eden,” which begins, “Of war and peace, the truth just twists.” Passing cars, buses and taxis honked horns in support, and a pedestrian raised a fist.

From a “jazz funeral for democracy” in New Orleans’ French Quarter to a reading of the names of dead Americans and Iraqis in Kentucky, anti-Bush demonstrators staged scattered protests all over the country as the president was sworn in, according to published reports.

“We want to spend today reminding this country, this administration, that people are dying,” said veteran Steve Morse, standing outside San Francisco City Hall by a poster that read, “To Party Big While Our Troops Die Is Obscene.”

While Mr. Bush’s core supporters were unflinching in their backing, the enthusiasm among audience members appeared to be lukewarm. “I don’t think the somewhat less than enthusiastic (audience applause) about the troops, the young men and women who fight the war was an indication of how we feel about the troops. On the contrary, we adore them because they were sent there to do a job. What’s happening is that the public is beginning to say, yeah, it’s fine and dandy to continue to tell us how much you love the troops, but if you really love them, why don’t you bring them home tomorrow, and stop this nonsense?” said Mr. Serrano.

Guardian writer Julian Borger described the Bush speech as a radical address and “arguably the most combative inauguration speech in 50 years. Bush nailed his colors once and for all to the neo-conservative mast, committing himself to an activist foreign policy,” Mr. Borger wrote.

Aidan Delgado, of Sarasota, Fla., returned to the United States last April after his military service. He told a rally he was a mechanic at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, which gained notoriety as a place of torture during Saddam Hussein’s rule and was the scene of prisoner abuse by U.S. troops.

“What I experienced in Iraq fills me with remorse,” he told the crowd of protesters. “If we are going to preserve our nation at all, we need to criticize what we did wrong and we have to criticize ourselves.”

Rep. Serrano expressed the same sentiment. “At the center of the next four years, at the center of the next six or seven months, will be the war in Iraq. To me, there is no greater issue in our country. It’s eating up resources; it’s taking young lives. It’s making enemies throughout the Arab world that we didn’t need, that we didn’t have in the past. We had enough problems without this situation. It’s not creating stability in the area.

“There really is no other issue. The war is the issue. The war is the hypocrisy of the administration. The war is the arrogance of the administration. The war is what could be wrong with our country.”