PHOTOPHILE- Independence Day: Monticello gets presidential treatment

President George W. Bush remains good-humored despite near-constant heckling.

"It's all about the First Amendment," said Albemarle police Captain John Teixeira, somewhat presciently, before the start of Monticello's July 4 Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. The presence of President George Bush turned a favorite, easygoing annual event into a regimented, security-minded yell-zone. [See news story for more–editor.]

It's not like this area is a stranger to U.S. presidents, but it's been a few centuries. The 1,000 tickets available to the masses were quickly snatched up by citizens eager to see the POTUS– or to protest his policies. Even now, the debate continues: were activists exercising their First Amendment rights on Jefferson's lawn– or just being plain rude?

Protesters in the parking lot on the way up to Monticello are a time-honored tradition, and although the lot was closed this year, the protest fashions reached new heights of creativity with Lady Liberty, the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, and impersonators not only of Bush but also Dick Cheney and Condi Rice. 

By 8am, most attendees were up on the mountain with two hours to kill in the ever-warming sun. Reporters were asked to stay in the press area– later dubbed the "free speech cage" by local wag Janis Jaquith– because of "security concerns," although 3,000 other people roaming around did not seem to raise similar worries. Shortly after 9am, everyone was asked to remain in their seats, with temperatures rising, serenaded by the Charlottesville Municipal Band while Bush motorcaded up and toured Monticello before the 1oam ceremony. 

Secret Service operatives placed around the lawn and spotters stationed on the old house's roof seemed to have the Independence Day crowd tightly controlled. And then all free-speech heck broke out, at least during the president's talk. 

For America's newest 72 citizens, being welcomed to this country by President Bush capped an already extraordinary day– and provided some of the best photo ops in 232 years.

Jineen Abed came up from Roanoke to see her friend sworn in as a U.S. citizen– and then she was headed to Washington.

Tighe Barry wears red, white, and blue to Monticello to voice his opinion of President Bush.

Former Bosnia-Herzegovina resident/new American Haris Bukvic, left, is joined by Carleen and David Lane.

President George Bush, Governor Tim Kaine, and Virginia First Lady Anne Holton (top right) applaud America's newest citizens.

Zeljkovic, from Bosnia-Herzegovina, gets a presidential hug.

Vesna Zeljkovic, 20, (center) beams with friends Sophia Griffiths and Lauren Camac after the ceremony.

Desiree Fairooz makes a dash toward Bush screaming, "war criminal!"

Albemarle's Captain John Teixeira keeps the peace with Virginia State Police First Sergeant D. Hunter Hepburn, who drove up from Lynchburg.

Ruhi Ramazani, UVA professor emeritus and a naturalized citizen himself, estimates he's celebrated the Fourth at Monticello for well over 40 years.

George Thomas and his wife, Supervisor Sally Thomas, run into county exec Bob Tucker at an event that's not an Albemarle Board of Supervisors meeting.

Ernesto Dovis, with baby Luca Dovis, celebrates Independence Day on the side of Route 20 with Condoleezza Rice, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the ghost of Thomas Jefferson.