The most vocal of them gathered near the Navy Memorial, where some managed to hoist down the American flag and raise their own, a black rag. Blue-helmeted riot police responded with batons and pepper spray.
Those were the most noticeable demonstrators but there were others who were quieter. Henry Reed, 65, came from Boston for the day. He stood, rain dripping from his gray mustache, on an embankment that overlooked the parade route. He held up a hand-made sign on a broom handle. The sign read "Bush democracy" but the word "democracy" had a red line through it. "I was very strongly affected by the situation in Florida," he said. "If Bush had won fair and square I wouldn't be here to protest." Mr. Reed wore a suit and tie, underneath a tan-colored trench coat. "I want people to realize that there are protesters other than hippies."
Further down the avenue, opposite the National Gallery of Art, Terry Pridemore and George Brown were getting reacquainted with the spirit of rebellion after 28 years. "This is my first protest since Nixon bombed Cambodia in 1972," said Brown, 46. Both men are Washington locals but claim they haven't felt stirred to come out and protest anything. Now they're fired up and when the parade's security advance drives past they deliver loud boos and hisses.
There were many more signs and protesters down the avenue but also pockets of people in the crowd arguing about abortion, cutting taxes or simply about Bush stealing the election. One woman, drenched by the rain, said that her sign reading "Healing requires justice" had been snatched by a passerby who ran off.
Avid supporters of Bush were not in the majority. Maybe they figured the fur coats that many wore at the swearing-in wouldn't go down so well in such a crowd.