WASHINGTON (Scripps) - Scattered protest groups took to the streets during President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremonies Monday in efforts to end deadly military drones attacks, to promote the kingdom of God, to stop abortion and to guarantee gun rights.
They temporarily blocked traffic on Capitol Hill, smashed some windows in a pre-dawn incident and caused some localized commotions amid packed streets teeming with hundreds of thousands of spectators on the National Mall. But the demonstrations were lightly attended and, like most other inaugurations in recent years, drew scant response from authorities.
Thousands of police from dozens of law enforcement agencies made an impressive show of available force, including military-style vehicles parked at major street corners. But authorities generally turned a blind eye to the protests and declined to make arrests.
"First and foremost, we want everyone to enjoy the democratic process and this historic day. Safety is our number one priority," said Officer Shannell Antrobus, spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Hill Police Department.
But authorities were clearly tempted to arrest a dozen members of the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore and the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance who threatened to block traffic near the Russell Senate Office Building near the U.S. Capitol.
"We had all 'died' on the ground from a killer drone strike," said Maria Allwine of Baltimore. She said the group was demonstrating the frightening lethality of a military drone attack that has killed civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, but also scores of targeted Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.
The demonstration was almost too convincing.
"The policeman took my hands behind my back. But they never got out the handcuffs," said protest organizer Max Obuszewski, also of Baltimore.
Police reported the protesters ignored repeated requests to disperse and wagons were summoned. But a command sergeant told cops on scene to make no arrests in interest of not further blocking departing crowds headed for Union Station.
The District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police reported about 60 protestors armed with anarchist-style pamphlets smashed class at a TD Bank, a DVA Federal Credit Union and the Hooters restaurant in the District's Chinatown neighborhood.
The group ran away from the area in several directions and police were unable to make any arrests. One of the pamphlets at the scene proclaimed: "Against Every Cop. Against Every Boss. Against Every President."
Authorities also had to deal with a protracted man-up-a-tree standoff. The protestor sporting a sign that read "Pray to end abortion" climbed about 40 feet up a tree near the Museum of the American Indian along the National Mall.
The man refused orders to come down for more than three hours. Firefighters put ladders around the tree to encourage him, but he remained aloft throughout the ceremony, drawing crowds who stopped to take photos.
Some were yelling at him to come down while others cheered for him to fall.
Authorities said the man finally descended shortly before 2 p.m.
A variety of religious views were also on display Monday. A dozen members of the International Temple of Deliverance from Gaithersburg, Md., took to the streets to call on the crowd to find a closer relationship with Jesus.
Eight members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, took to the streets with their warning that God hates gay people and those who enable them. "Therefore, God hates America and this doomed world," the group said on its website when announcing the protests.
(Reach Scripps Howard News Service reporter Thomas Hargrove at email@example.com.)