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The Daily Tar Heel

Demonstrations Mark Bush's Inauguration

Despite bitingly cold temperatures and rain, angry and concerned citizens gathered at Freedom Plaza, directly on the route of President Bush's Inaugural Parade, waving signs and chanting slogans in support of their causes.

Issues being protested included Bush's support of the death penalty, large corporations, drilling in Alaska and voting irregularities in Florida.

"You say Ashcroft, we say no. Racist South has got to go!" shouted one woman whose hair and clothes were drenched with rain, her cry soon joined by others.

Other spontaneous chants erupted throughout the plaza many times during the day, including, "They say death row, we say hell no" and "Hail to the thief" -- the most prominent chants heard throughout the afternoon.

Police also turned out in full force for the event, placing security forces throughout the city to ensure no weapons were brought near the festivities.

And two policemen stood atop a nearby building, ready to shoot tear gas into the crowd if necessary.

Many issues were represented at the protests, but the common thread uniting the demonstrators was a general mistrust of the new president.

Some chose to express their message through costume. Characters in attendance ranged from Freaky the Clown, who dressed in red clown clothes and wore heavy white makeup over a prosthetic nose and chin, to Billionaires for Bush, a group mocking wealthy corporate Americans who support Bush.

Josh Silver of Washington, D.C., a member of Billionaires for Bush, came dressed as "Billy Bucks" in a tuxedo and gloves. He held an unlit cigar and sported a moustache drawn in black marker.

Silver said he and his group were protesting a presidency bought by corporate America.

In character, Silver spouted off several sarcastic phrases, including "Drill in Alaska, screw the wildlife," criticizing Bush's support of oil drilling.

Another group of about 40 students from Temple University in Philadelphia dressed in polar bear costumes, representing the wildlife they hope to protect by raising awareness of oil drilling in Alaska. "We're here protesting the new administration and (aim) to protect the national wildlife refuge," said Arctic Avengers member Amy Renz.

One protester in particular stood out above the crowd -- literally.

Adam Eidinger of Washington, D.C., standing on stilts and waving an American flag, said he was there for the cause of democracy. "I'm not here because I hate George Bush, though personally I can't stand him, but because things are completely undemocratic."

But not everyone at Freedom Plaza rallied against Bush.

Chris Potash of Sea Bright, N.J., stood out among the crowd by wearing a "Sore/Loserman 2000" button.

Potash said he thought the protesters were being disrespectful to the new president. He said everyone should be there to have a good time.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this is getting carried away," he said. "(We need to) move forward, not back, and bring integrity into the administration."

Scott Markusch of Baltimore echoed Potash's sentiments.

Markusch said he has a strong conviction in Bush because of the new president's moral values.

He added that he thinks the protesters have a right to express their beliefs. "I'd love to talk to them, but when you are set in your mind, you don't want to hear what others have to say."

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The line between Bush proponents and opponents was drawn when Bush supporters standing on a balcony above Freedom Plaza began to antagonize the crowd by waving a "Yell if you love the GOP" sign. This move, in response to yells from protesters to "Jump" or "Trickle down," elicited jeers and raised middle fingers from below.

Eidinger said he thinks the protesters' voice was heard. "I think we outnumber Bush supporters at this point," he said. "All issues are hurt by a lack of democracy. The people have a clear message. We want democracy."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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