PASADENA, Calif. – The 2012 Tournament of Roses parade went off without a hitch Monday morning in Pasadena, then thousands of protesters followed in its wake carrying a 250-foot-long banner representing the U.S. Constitution and a 70-foot-long octopus representing corporate greed.
The chanting marchers intended to walk the entire parade route. Behind them were three truckloads of Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in riot gear, though no problems had been reported.
The 123rd Rose Parade, which was held on Monday because the New Year's Day holiday fell on a Sunday, attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators and a worldwide audience.
This year, the floral-decked floats and gleaming marching bands were shadowed — literally — by anger at the nation's political and financial woes from several hundred anti-Wall Street protesters who gathered at a nearby park, then took to the street after the parade, where groups who want to make political statements regularly tag along.
"It's an opportunity to get in front of a large group of people who, in most cases, should be sympathetic to our cause," said William Garrels, of Sacramento.
"Why is it that the banks need a bailout and people aren't (getting one)?" said Jill Emery, of Sierra Madre, as she held a sign that read: "Nightmare on Wall Street — Rethink the American Dream."
Hundreds of extra police officers from numerous law enforcement agencies were in place but no problems were reported.
There were 10 arrests overnight, including four felonies, as thousands of spectators staked out viewing places along the route but that figure was down from the previous year, police said.
Spectators seem to be taking the prospect of an Occupy protest in stride.
"Everybody has a right to march to protest," said Bill Steffin, of Los Angeles. "They followed procedures so far."
Police, parade and city officials held numerous meetings with the protest organizers to ensure that they did not disrupt the parade.
Heightened security is nothing new to the parade, which took place on Jan. 2 this year because New Year's Day falls on a Sunday.
Police also stepped up measures after 9/11 and the Y2K threat, and have regularly dealt with protests through the years ranging from anti-Vietnam war demonstrators to Native Americans incensed at the choice of a descendant of Christopher Columbus as grand marshal.
Some 700,000 spectators, some of whom camped out in sleeping bags overnight to secure a prime viewing spot, are expected to line the 5.5-mile route through the city of Pasadena. Another 40 million people will view lead the procession of 44 floats, 16 marching bands and 22 equestrian troupes on U.S. television.
Among others, this year's parade will feature Iraq war veteran J.R. Martinez as grand marshal, the children and grandchildren of Roy Rogers on a float commemorating cowboys, and the parents of Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl killed in the mass shooting that injured U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords last year, on the Donate Life float honoring organ donors. The Greens donated their daughter's corneas.
This parade will also be the first in 58 years without the famed Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale horses after the company withdrew in a change of marketing strategy.