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WASHINGTON--Clinton friends and fans turned out in droves on the Mall yesterday, waving flags, sporting inaugural pins and t-shirts and whooping "Go Bill" to cheer their support for the new president.
The crowd, estimated at 250,000, gathered from all corners of the country and often outnumbered Washington natives in the jam-packed Capitol.
On an early morning metro headed toward the festivities, one lanky young man yelled out, "I'm a D.C. native. Anyone else on this train from around here?"
Silence--followed by laughter as the crowded car of tourists and press hounds grinned at each other and began to compare notes on who had travelled the farthest to join in the festivities.
"Well then, welcome to Washington!" the local said.
Some of Clinton's most diehard supporters showed up the night before with suitcases and sleeping bags, planning to camp out for a better view of the festivities.
"We wanted to be right up there in front by the reflecting pool, but around 5 a.m. they kicked us back here," said Jamal Wiggins, a college student from Delaware who ended up sitting with early and late-comers alike along the main drag of Pennsylvania Avenue. "We've been sitting on the grates for warmth."
Wiggins and three friends arrived at the Capitol with comforters, pillows, food and a gray Samsonite suitcase around 3 a.m.
"Why so early? Basically we're crazy, really idiotically stupid," laughed friend Bill Ballard.
Tickets to the swearing-in admitted the well-connected like actors Jack Nicholson and Darryl Hannah and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson to assigned seating within feet of Clinton.
The less fortunate crowded into a standing area farther back, where the fresh dew that was quickly trampled into a boggy swamp did little to dampen the mood of Democratic revellers.
Determined Clinton-watchers scaled trees and held cameras high above the crowd to capture a glimpse of the new president.
"The dang tree is in the way," complained a silver-haired woman to her husband as they threaded their way through the mob.
Meanwhile, seasoned Washington political observers sized up the real changes Clinton would bring to the capitol.
D.C. cabbie Anwari, who has shuttled power-hungry politicians years, said the Democrats will definitely put a new face on Washington.
"Those are new people," he said, nodding at a group of young women in starched business suits. "New suits, new dresses, young people. You can tell the Democrats. They're the ones who all had to buy new clothes."
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