Inaugural Day protests are biggest since Nixon's second swearing-in

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WASHINGTON - George W. Bush's motorcade lurched through the largest inaugural protests since Richard Nixon yesterday, enduring thousands of protesters, including a few who hurled insults, bottles, tomatoes and an egg.

Protesters clashed briefly with police clad in riot gear at a few flash points while the new president remained inside his armored stretch car for most of the parade up a soggy, cold Pennsylvania Avenue.

Police ordered the motorcade to slow in anticipation of some protests - at one point stopping it for five minutes - and then sped it through others.

A couple of protesters threw bottles and tomatoes before the presidential limousine arrived, and one hurled an egg that landed near the motorcade, the Secret Service said.

But the protesters managed little else to interrupt the festivities in the face of a massive show of 7,000 police officers. As the day grew darker and colder, authorities had arrested only six people, and activists began to disperse, said Terrance Gainer, executive assistant chief of police. One of them was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after slashing tires and trying to assault an officer, Gainer said.

"Hail to the thief," read one sign along the parade route questioning the legitimacy of Bush's election win in Florida. Other protesters sported buttons declaring, "Illegitimate son of a Bush."

"If he had won clearly, I wouldn't have troubled to come here," said Mack Wilder, a construction worker from Greensboro, N.C., who joined more than 100 others from his state for a five-hour bus journey through fog and rain.

Some said the deeply conservative tinge of Bush's Cabinet drove them into the streets. "By having people like (John) Ashcroft nominated, he is definitely not being a healer, which is what he promised to be," Barbara Katz said.

After staying in his limo for most of the traditional parade route from the Capitol, Bush exited for a brief walk only after he reached a secure, protester-free zone near the White House filled with inauguration ticketholders.

The protests were the largest since those during Nixon's 1973 inauguration at the height of the Vietnam War. Those protests drew about 60,000; organizers of the Bush protests anticipated 20,000.

The marchers faced stringent security measures, including a first: checkpoints along the parade route. There were miles of steel fencing, and Secret Service agents in long black overcoats jogged alongside the motorcade.