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Bush inauguration likely to provoke widespread protests

WASHINGTON—Groups protesting President Bush's policies, from anarchists to satirists, are planning a wide range of events that they hope will attract the largest crowd of demonstrators to an inauguration since Richard Nixon's in 1973.

Once again, the rallying point for many is a divisive war—Iraq instead of Vietnam—and a Republican president who just won a second term.

With tight security for the first presidential swearing-in since the terrorist attacks of 2001, protesters are trying legal challenges and creative methods to gain visibility on Thursday.

A group called Turn Your Back on Bush is asking activists to leave signs at home, arrive early, spread out along the inaugural parade route and blend in. When the presidential motorcade passes, they'll silently turn their backs on Bush.

"This will be a non-disruptive, polite way to show resistance to Bush and his policies," said Jet Heiko of Philadelphia, the national organizer for the group.

One experienced protest group, the International ANSWER Coalition, obtained a permit for a prime slice of real estate to put up its own bleachers for about 1,000 people near the beginning of the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue and Fourth Street, not far from the Capitol where Bush will take the oath of office.

But the group complains that the National Park Service and the Presidential Inaugural Committee have taken over too much of the 1.7-mile parade route with bleachers for ticketed Bush supporters.

ANSWER filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday seeking to get more public access to Pennsylvania Avenue.

The satirical group Billionaires for Bush plans to "auction off" Social Security and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at the FDR Memorial on the Mall, then hold a "re-coronation" ball at a downtown nightclub with the theme, "All the excess, twice the greed."

Bush isn't the only target of protest, however.

A group of progressive activists under the banner of The Backbone Campaign plans on Friday to deliver a 70-foot puppet of a human spine to the Democratic National Committee, urging stronger opposition to the GOP.

But the Bush administration remains the focal point for most organizations. Environmentalists plan to bicycle through the city, the Committee to ReDefeat the President will bring a Thomas Jefferson re-enactor to the Jefferson Memorial, and the Anarchist Resistance promises a "festive and rowdy" march at Franklin Square near the White House.

Groups backing Bush also plan to be present. The D.C. chapter of Free Republic has a permit for one corner on the parade route, as does the Christian Defense Coalition, which will call for the nominations of anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court.

Bush, during an interview Thursday, said he welcomed the protesters to his inaugural: "People should be allowed to express themselves as they see fit. Dissent is a vital part of democracy."

D.C. police say they'll be ready for any protest contingency, though officials wouldn't guess whether the turnout will exceed the several thousand who showed up in 2001, including a few who pelted Bush's limousine with eggs.

"I have no idea how many will show, but we'll be able to handle it," Police Chief Charles Ramsey said.

The biggest issue facing protesters, and the general public, is how close to the parade route they can get. By Friday, bleachers lined much of Pennsylvania Avenue—with tickets going mainly to Bush supporters. Once security trailers are set up, the public will be limited to a few street corners.

"There's not a lot of space" for the public, said National Park Service spokesman Bill Line, but he noted that ANSWER had several spots along the parade route and "the largest single swath" of space of any group.

A lawyer for ANSWER, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, said that 210 feet of street front was small compared with "the thousands of feet given to the exclusive use of the inaugural committee—they're trying to privatize Pennsylvania Avenue."

The group's lawsuit also aims to loosen Secret Service rules banning sticks and poles used for signs because they could be used as weapons. By late Friday, no hearing had been set for the suit.

On those rules, the anti-Bush group has an unlikely ally in the Christian Defense Coalition. That group objected because they can't bring crosses to the parade. They, too, are considered potential weapons by the Secret Service.


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20050114 INAUG protests

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