Plans Take Shape for Inaugural Protests

Jay Moore research at
Thu Dec 21 11:40:45 MST 2000

 Published on Thursday, December 21, 2000 in the Washington Post  Inaugural
Protests Take Shape  by David Montgomery and Arthur Santana

 The raw wounds left by the presidential election finale have created enough
irritation to  unleash one of the largest inauguration protests in years,
according to veteran organizers and police officials.

 "This will be by far the biggest counter-inauguration since the 1973 Nixon
 counter-inauguration," predicted Brian Becker, co-director of the
International Action Center  in New York, who has demonstrated at numerous
presidential swearing-in events. "We  organize protests not infrequently,
and we know when something has legs and when it  doesn't have legs. This one

 At the second inauguration of President Richard M. Nixon, police estimated
there were  25,000 to 100,000 demonstrators, including some who threw fruit
and stones at Nixon's car.  The total crowd was about 300,000.

 D.C. police are expecting about 750,000 people on Jan. 20 when
President-elect Bush is  sworn in, and they said they think many
demonstrators will be content to voice their  displeasure peacefully.

 Becker's group, like several others hoping to flood parts of the city on
Inauguration Day, had  been planning to be in Washington no matter who won
the election. But enough people  think the outcome was illegitimate, he
said, that it has cranked up protest passion. Within
 hours of the Dec. 12 U.S. Supreme Court decision blocking Vice President
Gore's effort to  recount votes in Florida, Becker and other organizers
said, their Web sites were deluged  with inquiries.

 "There's a tremendous amount of spontaneous organizing going on," said
Becker, 48.

 A rainbow of left-leaning groups had planned to rally on the Mall to vent
outrage at a variety  of demons, including racism, the death penalty and the
corporate influence on politics. But  complaints that some Florida votes
were not counted, including those of many African  Americans, have given
demonstrators powerful common issues.

 Unlike the street protests against the World Bank in April, no civil
disobedience has been  planned, organizers say. They said the demonstrations
will feature signs, chants, giant  puppets, skits and a squad of radical
stilt walkers being trained in Philadelphia.

 "We are not planning to shut down the inauguration," Becker said. "We are
planning to  make it plain that the inaugural route is not the private
property of those who support the  death penalty, so we're going to be
well-represented on that parade route."

 D.C. police aren't taking any chances with protesters' intentions,
according to Executive  Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer. He said he
expects fewer than 5,000 unruly  demonstrators might try to disrupt the
inauguration, along with thousands of peaceful  demonstrators.

 In addition to the D.C. force, thousands of suburban and federal officers
will participate in  what officials described as an unprecedented level of

 The Justice Action Movement, an alliance of Washington area protesters,
yesterday sent  D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey a letter requesting a
meeting to discuss plans for  peaceful protests. Cmdr. Michael Radzilowski,
who is in charge of special operations, said  yesterday that he would be
happy to meet with the protesters.

 Half a dozen groups have requested permits, but none have been granted. A
National Parks  Service spokesman said the agency is waiting for
inauguration planners to make final  arrangements before it allots space to

 The National Organization for Women plans to be there. "It's important for
our own spirit to  let people know there is a place to plug in, take that
anger and use it to fuel some additional  activism," NOW President Patricia
Ireland said.

 The Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Walter Fauntroy plan a "shadow
inauguration" outside  the U.S. Supreme Court to swear in those pledging to
uphold the Voting Rights Act.

 "We feel the act was violated by George Bush," Sharpton said.

 Fauntroy, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Shaw, said he has
witnessed every  swearing-in since President Franklin D. Roosevelt's fourth
in 1945, and "I know of no  inauguration that has been the source of greater
controversy than this . . . following a  shameful election."

 Other activists are planning a Voters March to call for election reform and
the abolishment  of the electoral college. "Our nation has been traumatized
by what has happened in this  election," said Louis Posner, a New York
attorney leading the effort.

 Another group, the D.C.-based New Black Panther Party, and its allies plan
to stage a Day  of Outrage march, said spokesman Malik Shabazz.

 Other local protest efforts are being coordinated by the Justice Action
Movement, a coalition  of many who protested the World Bank. They have been
holding public meetings for several  weeks at George Washington University.
They scheduled a news conference today to bring  together organizers of
various protest efforts.

 On Monday, several dozen people attended a Justice Action Movement meeting.
Most were  students or young members of progressive organizations and
unions, but several were old  enough to have protested Nixon's inauguration.
Justice Action Movement has dubbed Jan.  20 the "InaugurAuction," a
reference to members' belief that the major parties buy the White  House
with corporate funds.

 "Because of a corrupt political system, we now have a president who is
going to be  threatening the lives of many innocent people because of his
support for the death penalty,  military policies abroad and free trade,"
said Adam Eidinger, 27, a movement organizer.

 At the meeting, the group voted not to use violence, vandalism, weapons,
alcohol or drugs.  They also decided to remain in small groups scattered all
over the Mall, employing creative  visual effects and stilt walkers to make
their points.

 After the meeting, several organizers said they suspected a police
infiltrator was in their  midst. A man with a goatee looked just like a
plainclothes officer who figured prominently in  confrontations with World
Bank demonstrators, according to organizers who said they have  videotapes.

 Before ending a brief telephone interview with The Washington Post, the man
denied he was  an undercover officer. A police spokesman said there is no
one on the force with the name  the man used at the meeting. Gainer
confirmed that the police have infiltrated the  protesters, but he didn't
identify anyone.

 "They're looking for excuses to shut us down," Eidinger said.

 This week, a few members of Justice Action Movement held a practice
InaugurAuction in  front of the White House, offering to auction the
building for $10 to carpenters building  bleachers for the parade.

 "I don't feel this particular election demonstrates ideally what the
presidency is for this  country," said Elizabeth Croyden, 30, an actress and
film producer who participated. "It  exposes a lot of flaws in the system,
and I'm upset about it. If you don't get involved, how  can you make a

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