White House

Provocative hats and pot: Protesters fight for space and permits in inaugural splash

Across the country, an estimated 200,000 protesters are making provocative plans for when Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20, some of them guaranteed to get attention.

Kelly Krieger, 57, a race director and former knitting instructor in Bellingham, Washington, has already knitted 20 pink “pussy hats,” part of a national effort ahead of the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21.

“I’ll have a special one. I think I’m going to wear the polka-dot one,” Krieger said Thursday, adding that she wants to make “a strong statement against a racist and misogynist agenda.”

In Washington, D.C., Adam Eidinger, the head of a group backing marijuana legalization, sought help Thursday to roll and distribute 4,200 joints that will be handed out free of charge on the morning of Jan. 20. (The number 420 is a marijuana code). Pot fans intend to light up during Trump’s inaugural speech, hoping to convince him to join their cause.

But getting space lined up for all the protesters is proving to be a headache.

While the Women’s March has a permit, the National Park Service said Thursday that so far it had approved only three of the 27 applications it had received for “First Amendment” events linked to the inauguration.

Critics say the federal government is moving too slowly, making it hard for protesters to plan.

“We are getting calls from people all over the country who are worried about whether or not they should buy those bus tickets, whether or not they’re going to be able to speak out, to stand, to have land under their feet,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a nonprofit group that goes to court on behalf of protesters.

At a news conference Thursday, the group said it would sue the National Park Service if the permits were not approved by the close of business on Friday.

But while Verheyden-Hilliard accused the park service of stonewalling with only 15 days to go before the inauguration, she expressed confidence that protesters would prevail in court if necessary.

“We’re here to tell them that it is safe to come, that it is lawful to come, that you can bring your children, you can bring your parents. There will be permitted space in Washington, D.C,” she said.

Mike Litterst, a Park Service spokesman, said one of the 27 applications for permits had been withdrawn and that 23 were still being processed.

“We’re going to issue as many of those permits as we can,” he said. “Nothing’s been denied.”

The Women’s March, long in the works, is expected to be by far the largest draw for protesters.

It will include men, including Mitch Kennedy, an insurance claims processor and part-time taxi driver from Savannah, Georgia. He said the presidential election had left him depressed, but he’s better now, ready to protest against Trump.

“I’m going to make sure this man knows the whole world is watching and we’re not going to let him destroy all the progress we’ve worked so hard to achieve,” said Kennedy, who’s 36. He’s worried that gay rights, civil rights, women’s rights and health care will suffer under Trump: “He and the Republicans in Congress need to see that we won’t stand for it. We’ll be watching.”

Eidinger, the marijuana activist, wants 100 people to bring 42 joints each. On Thursday, his group, called DCMJ, issued a plea for people to host “joint-rolling sessions” over the next two weeks to prepare. Eidinger, who will talk about his plans at the National Press Club in Washington on Friday, is hoping that Trump decides to back legalization.

“Donald Trump declared the war on drugs a failure three decades ago. He was right then and he has a chance to be right now,” Eidinger said.

Krieger estimated that she’ll bring 200 hats made in Bellingham when she comes to the inauguration with her daughter, Emily. She said she’d formed a group of women, many of them first-time knitters, who had been gathering every night for the past four weeks to make the hats. It’s part of the national “Pussyhat Project,” which has a goal of creating more than 1 million pink hats for the march.

“It’s not intended to be explicitly anti-Trump and it’s not intended to be disrespectful,” Krieger said. “A lot of the people want to go to the marches and not everyone can go, so this is a way for people to be involved even if they can’t attend.”

Like many Americans, Krieger said she was shocked when the word “pussy” became part of the nation’s political lexicon in October, after The Washington Post released a video that showed Trump boasting years ago that, as a star, he could “do anything” to women.

“Grab them by the pussy,” said Trump in the video.

“I was absolutely horrified that that was acceptable to so many Americans,” Krieger said. “I mean, I’m a woman who lived through the ’60s and the ’70s and I raised my daughter to be a strong and independent woman, and I’m horrified that so many other Americans find that acceptable.”

Despite her disappointment in the president-elect, Trump has clearly ignited a knitting boom of sorts. The former knitting instructor said the project had been a good thing.

“It’s really been incredible the way it’s taken off way across the country,” Krieger said. “People are excited about the project and about learning a new skill.”

Rob Hotakainen: 202-383-6154, @HotakainenRob