Leaders of several religious denominations, mostly but not all black, will join Minister Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, on the Mall on Monday for the Million Family March.
Thousands of the faithful are expected to stream into Washington over the weekend to rally in support of “family values” and to show support for strengthening faith and family.
Workmen have been assembling a large sound and video system on the Mall all week, with plans to use stages on the Ellipse, the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol terrace. A children’s program will be held at the Washington Monument.
March activities will begin today and continue through the weekend, culminating with Monday’s daylong event, spreading from the main stage at the U.S. Capitol Steps, down the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial.
No one knows how many marchers to expect. The Nation of Islam insisted that its Million Man March attracted the advertised million men, who came to renew their vows to their families, but police put the estimate at 300,000. After a lengthy word war over the estimates, the police have since declined to make estimates of all marches in the District of Columbia.
But with large numbers of children expected, park police officials have urged parents to give their children information, perhaps on tags, in case they are separated from their friends and families.
“We strongly recommend parents put a name tag on your child or put a cell-phone number in your child’s pocket,” said Sgt. Robert MacLean, spokesman for the U.S. Park Police.
Park police will be “actively enforcing vending regulations,” prohibiting sales on Park Service property without a permit, Sgt. MacLean said.
The Million Family March on Monday could disrupt traffic just as commuters head for work. Though they don’t necessarily expect a million families, Metro transit officials expect hundreds of thousands of persons to converge on the capital, which could be a “major challenge” for the subway system and could cause delays on bus routes, General Manager Richard A. White said.
Maryland and Virginia highway officials don’t expect major problems, but urge commuters to use public transportation, carpool and leave for their destinations early.
“The most significant impact we’ll have … is parking,” said Mr. White, who noted that because the event is taking place on a workday, the number of people flooding the transit system will increase.
Mr. White said he expects to have some “disappointed customers” due to the parking problems.
Metro will open stations at 4 a.m., which means the spaces that would have been taken by local commuters could be taken over by those attending the march. He expects up to 10,000 buses on the streets of the District, making it difficult for Metro buses to meet their regular schedules.
Buses will park at a march staging area at RFK Stadium and shuttle buses will transport marchers to Metro trains.
“It’s going to be a significant challenge,” he said.
The higher rush-hour fares will be in effect from 4 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Event organizers paid Metro $22,500 to open earlier than the customary 5:30 a.m.
D.C. administrators are preparing police, fire, health and transportation strategies to “keep the city open for business” as Million Family Marchers descend on the city.
“It’s going to be a logistical challenge,” said Emergency Management Agency Director Peter LaPorte. “The balance here is making sure the District is open for business, while ensuring [marchers] can exercise their First Amendment rights.”
The District has been planning security, transportation, public health and vending for three months. Mr. LaPorte said the planning was similar to that for the Million Man March, which went smoothly, from the first speech to the trash cleanup.
But unlike the Million Man March, the Million Family March has not increased advance reservations for Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses, those companies say.