It was not hard to tell the two sides apart

Andrew Buncombe

The Independent

21 January 2005

Mary Machado, standing next to the steel barriers on Pennsylvania Avenue, was quick to point out that the stetson and the Dallas Cowboys' jacket were camouflage. She was here to protest not celebrate. "He's not my president, honey. This is just a disguise," drawled Mrs Machado, 48, a Texan who now lives in Stirling, Virginia.

Mrs Machado and many other demonstrators had one overriding aim. As George Bush travelled past in his motorcade - either on his way to Capitol Hill or else on his way back to the White House after having been sworn in - they would turn the other way in protest.

Within minutes a vast motorcade of flashing lights, sirens and get-out-of-the-way self-confidence hurtled past, transporting Mr Bush to his second inauguration. En masse, the demonstrators turned the other way. "We've just done the President," said one man with obvious satisfaction. And so it was yesterday in Washington, as a freezing wind whipped celebrators and demonstrators alike. You were either for him or against him, you loved him or loathed him, you were here to show your strong support or your utter condemnation. As has been the case for the past four years, there was no middle ground in regard to George Bush.For this, the 55th inauguration, more bankrolled by corporations and big business than most before and where seats alongside the route cost up to $125 (£66), it was not hard to tell the two sides apart. Fur coats, suits and slightly smug smiles suggested Bush supporters, who were most likely going to one of the many inaugural balls after a hard day of clapping and cheering.

Banners, jeans, windcheaters and disgruntled crabbiness suggested the other side.

"I'm celebrating. I think it's a good thing he was re-elected," said consultant Gayle Nix, 49, one of the fur-wearers who was heading to a ball with her husband. "He needs to finish what he started. I'm not sure we can bring democracy to the Middle East but we need to try. I believe everything he has started to do has been good."

Yesterday in Washington, Bush supporters appeared to strongly outnumber his detractors but what did that really say? Only that this was a day for the winning side, while his opponents had either cleared out of the city or forced by the authorities to demonstration sites away from the procession route where the President would not be able to hear their jeers.

Because for all the flag-waving and cheering and singing of "The Star Spangled Banner", for Mr Bush's passing call for unity, for all the talk that this was a national event for all Americans, it is clear that the US remains as bitterly divided and as utterly apart as it was on election day.

On this day when Washington was jammed full of Bush supporters and of people who were wearing stetsons not just as a disguise, one demonstrator summed up how these two opposing groups can co-exist side by side.

Lindsay Middleton, 58, a cancer researcher with the National Institute of Health, moaned: "I know lots of people and I don't know anyone who likes George Bush."