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About 600 Ohio residents attend inauguration



Published: Fri, January 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Supporters and protesters from the state turned out in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The snow and slush didn't keep thousands of Ohioans from turning out Thursday for President Bush's inauguration, with supporters wearing red hats and fur coats and protesters toting signs urging him to bring home U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

This closely divided electorate is what made Ohio the No. 1 battleground of the presidential election, and both Republicans and anti-war activists said they felt compelled to attend Thursday's inauguration, which marks the official start of Bush's second term. Much of the city was covered in snow, and temperatures hovered around freezing.

"You see things on TV but when you can actually see the man's lips move, it makes it more real," said Toni Gibson of Kettering, who brought her daughter to Washington with a group of about 50 Bush supporters.

They were among about 600 Ohioans who crowded into a Senate committee room after the swearing-in ceremony for a reception with Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich.

"I'm really enjoying myself," said Nancy Smith, a first-time inaugural attendee who munched on a cookie decorated with Ohio's state flag at the reception. "I'm so glad Bush won our state."

Smith and her husband, a dairy farmer from Chesapeake, wore hats emblazoned with a "W" for the president and inaugural pins with Bush's picture.

DeWine, a Cedarville Republican, said this year's inauguration had the largest turnout of Ohioans that he's ever seen. More than 2,000 guests attended an Ohio gala Wednesday night at the National Air & amp; Space Museum. Even more were going Thursday night to Ohio's ball.

"As I look around this room, these are people who worked so hard to get Bush elected," DeWine said. "Our job is going to be to keep these folks who got involved in the election for the first time interested."

Outside the Capitol, other Ohioans lined part of the parade route, which stretched for 1.7 miles down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

Backs turned

As the vehicles carrying Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney passed the National Archives, a group of about 50 Ohioans, who stood behind metal barricades in the front row of spectators, quietly turned their backs on the parade in protest of Bush's re-election.

"We just stood there and people were screaming at us," said Genna Petrolla, a graduate student at Cleveland State University, who organized the participants from Ohio. "I'm so tired and happy, but people were noticing it."

Mary Jo Muser, of Cleveland, marched with hundreds of others toward the U.S. Capitol to protest the war in Iraq with the anti-war group Not in Our Name.

"I'm just outraged and appalled by the direction this country is going. We absolutely have to take a stand," Muser said.

The parade celebrating the inauguration started with a procession of dignitaries, including Presidential Inaugural Committee co-hosts Bill DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds of Cincinnati who are close Bush friends and were top financial contributors.

Earlier, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and members of Ohio's congressional delegation watched as Bush was sworn into office. Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who was a long-shot candidate in his party's primary election, said he attended the ceremony out of respect.

"I'm here to congratulate George Bush and wish him well, but we certainly need to find areas to work together for the betterment of the people," Kucinich said.

Ohio donors and companies contributed $1.4 million of the $25.5 million raised by the committee. Corporate sponsors paid for the $400,000 Ohio gala Wednesday night and the $31,000 reception with the senators.

The Patriot Ball for Ohioans on Thursday night was being paid for by the inaugural committee. Ohio and Florida were the only states to get their own ball, an honor attributed more to the large number of Ohioans expected to attend than the state's contributions or role in awarding Bush his victory.




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