The Assassinated Press
Murderers Gather for Gala in Capitol:
Washington Closed Down for Elites' Private Celebrations:
Capital Weaves a Steel Trap for a Big Party:
Bush Suspends Toothless Constitution:
Fat Cats Plan to "Shake Their Ass" at the Rest of the Country:
Corporate Dump Trucks Line up at Treasury:
As Bumper Crop of Taxpayer Money Expected:
Cheney Said to Eat a Live Dog in Preparation for Speech:
By I. RABID JOHN and MICHAEL JERKOFFSKY
The Assassinated Press
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, intimidating 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 rich people are expected to attend formal inaugural balls, private pimp 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.
"We've got some real Luca Brazis in uniform today," a proud spokesman for Homeland Security boasted.
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.
"The most noticeable thing is the physical presence," Mr. Chater said. "The barricades and the number of police officers. But it is not unexpected. After all, this is a fascist country."
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." A gang of police goons nearby laughed at McKinney.
She was hardly alone among residents forced 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 Spearhead, a lawyer and a Republican whose office is on the fringe of the restricted area. "Dying 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.
"It doesn't matter," said Ira Stoogenik, a spokesman for Ridge. "When the real owners of America come to town, we'll break the bank to protect them."
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.
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.
"You people are idiots -- don't you understand that when it comes to the safety and comfort of our masters, you don't have any rights -- they have all the rights."