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A Full Day Of Protest Planned for Inauguration
by Manny Fernandez    Washington Post
Entered into the database on Monday, January 24th, 2005 @ 22:19:44 MST


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Protesters unveiled more specifics about their plans yesterday for a spirited day of demonstrations to counter President Bush's second inauguration next Thursday, as one group said it was considering a lawsuit to gain more access to the parade route.

Officials, addressing plans for widespread street closings and a fireworks show Wednesday, advised federal employees who work downtown to stay home or to telecommute the day before the inauguration.

Demonstrators said they would mount nearly a dozen rallies and marches in Washington along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route and throughout downtown. The events, planned and sponsored separately, involve a mix of activists embracing causes that include opposition to the Iraq war, women's rights and the environment. A band of self-styled anarchists also plan to demonstrate.

"This is a people's uprising," said Shahid Buttar, 30, a Washington lawyer involved in the D.C. Cluster Spokescouncil, a coordinating body for about 50 local and out-of-town protest groups.

The size of the demonstrations remains unclear. Some organizers say the crowds will be bigger than those at Bush's 2001 inauguration, the occasion of the largest inaugural protest since Richard M. Nixon's second inauguration in 1973.

Not everyone rallying will be against the president. Conservatives and Christian activists will line parts of the parade route to show their support for Bush and to urge him to nominate Supreme Court justices who oppose abortion.

Anti-Bush demonstrators said they plan a mix of tactics. Some said they hope to provide a left-leaning response to the celebratory pageantry; others said they wanted to disrupt the festivities.

Anarchist Resistance said it would stage a "festive and rowdy march" from Franklin Square. A message posted on its Web site says: "There's nothing left to salvage in this empire that is the U.S. government. It's time to bring it down."

Some less-radical protesters plan to turn their backs on the president as the motorcade passes as part of a Turn Your Back on Bush event. Critical Mass bicyclists are planning two rides, one from Union Station and another from Dupont Circle.

The D.C. Anti-War Network is sponsoring a rally at Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, in Columbia Heights and a march to McPherson Square. After the march, some participants will risk arrest by lying down at 16th and H streets NW, across from Lafayette Square, as part of a civil disobedience "die-in," organizers said.

"This administration . . . has earned themselves a protest," said Candice Kearns, 25, a junior at Naropa University in Boulder, Colo., who will ride in a caravan for 1,627 miles to get to Washington. Like many other protesters seeking housing, Kearns is relying on the kindness of strangers: She is one of about 30 Colorado activists, all but one of whom will be staying at a Mount Pleasant Episcopal church. District, Maryland and Virginia activists are opening their homes to visiting protesters, posting accommodations on the Internet.

Some of the protests will be held within the no-drive area announced Tuesday, a large swath of downtown that will be closed Inauguration Day, with some streets closed before that.

To avoid gridlock, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management notified federal agency heads that they are allowed to let downtown employees go home early Wednesday and that they should consider urging them to take annual leave, compensatory time or unpaid leave. Workers also are urged to telecommute or take mass transit.

House Democrats from the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia joined Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) in writing to Bush yesterday to object to the administration's decision to require the District to pay $17.3 million in inauguration-related costs out of the region's federal homeland security grants.

"I think the president would be embarrassed that his administration is asking people in the District and the entire region to bear the . . . financial burden of the upcoming inauguration," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "This is a cost that should be covered by the people of the entire country."

Protest organizers, some of whom expressed outrage at the multimillion-dollar price tag for the inauguration, said they worried that heightened security will stifle dissent.

International ANSWER said it is prepared to sue the National Park Service over access to the parade route. The group accused authorities of excluding the public and demonstrators to make room for bleachers on Pennsylvania Avenue for ticket-holding Bush supporters. ANSWER plans a 9 a.m. rally at John Marshall Park, Fourth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, where members said they would erect bleachers of their own.

"The Bush administration, in conjunction with the National Park Service, is trying to stage-manage democracy," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney for the D.C.-based Partnership for Civil Justice. She said that aside from Marshall Park, "there is virtually no open space" for demonstrators and people who don't have tickets to gather on Pennsylvania.

Park Service spokesman Bill Line denied that there were extraordinary limits on space open to the public. Line said those not in bleachers would be allowed onto open areas of the sidewalks. "The National Park Service welcomes the members of the general public into those areas, but it's ultimately up to the Secret Service as to how many people will be allowed to fill those open spaces," Line said.

He said that Marshall Park, at 95,192 square feet, is the largest space where demonstrators can gather on the parade route.