- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

The credo of inaugural protesters is "peace, man," but law enforcement isn't buying it.

Most of the dozen groups with protest permits say no violence and no disorder will take place during three days of demonstrations, set to begin tomorrow, for the Inauguration weekend.

Nevertheless, local and federal agencies have assembled an imposing force to police an assortment of activists, who tout agendas covering abortion, the disputed presidential election and, of course, incoming President George W. Bush.

"We don't endorse any form of violence or property destruction," said Lauri Apple, a spokeswoman for the fledgling Justice Action Movement, a group that formed in November during the presidential deadlock. "Our purpose is not to shut down the Inauguration."

The demonstrators will be tended to by nearly 5,000 law enforcement officers, who still recall the 1,300 arrests made during April's protests of World Bank meetings in the District of Columbia.

Even though there will be hundreds of thousands of people swooping in on the District, police say they are certain that just a few have any violent proclivity.

But "we are prepared to deal with those folks," Terrance W. Gainer, executive assistant police chief in the District, told CNN.

Virtually every federal agent and police officer in the District and more than a thousand from surrounding jurisdictions will handle some form of inaugural security.

In accordance with tradition, security agents with rifles will perch on buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue while plainclothes personnel mingle with the crowds, along with Secret Service agents in their not-so-secret uniform of dark suits, sunglasses and in-ear communications devices.

And for the first time ever, the Secret Service is applying demonstration rules from the White House sidewalk to the entire parade route, citing "national security concerns," law enforcement officials said.

The battle for jostling room along the Inauguration parade route began yesterday, when the International Action Center, a coalition of liberal protest groups, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government and the D.C. police in U.S. District Court, calling unconstitutional a police plan to screen people approaching the 13-block parade route at checkpoints.

The action seeks a court order that will let protesters rally unfettered along the parade route.

Police officers will be stationed every few feet along Pennsylvania Avenue for Saturday's parade, and attendees will pass through checkpoints at which bags may be searched. Long-handled signs will be confiscated.

"They know there are thousands of people coming to protest, but they are trying to keep us from certain areas through those checkpoints," said Sarah Sloan of the International Action Center. "They know that this will be the largest inaugural protest since 1973 and they are trying to stifle the demonstrators."

Around 60,000 demonstrators showed up to protest the Vietnam War at the start of President Nixon's second term in 1973. Authorities remember that protesters besmirched the celebration by throwing eggs and rocks at Mr. Nixon's limousine.

No traffic will be allowed within four blocks of the entire parade route, officials said, and the Capitol will be closed at 1 p.m. Friday.

Two Metro stops Archives-Navy Memorial and Smithsonian will shut down Saturday, and police today will release a list of road closures.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles H. Ramsey's instructions to his officers for handling demonstrations are quite simple: "We'll be as gentle or as forceful as we need to be, and play the situation out based on what they do," he said.

"We have to be prepared for anything that may occur," the chief added. "Whether or not anybody gets arrested is up to them; it's not up to me. It will not be [the Metropolitan Police Department] that creates the problems, but we will resolve it."

So far, 12 groups have secured protest permits from the National Park Service. The permits allow them to demonstrate at several spots away from the parade route, including Freedom Plaza, Dupont Circle and McPherson Square Park.

Other groups avoided the need for an official protest stamp by keeping their numbers below 25.

The number of protesters is expected to run between 20,000 and 30,000, compared with the 150,000 who are in town for festivities and celebration.

The myriad causes of the demonstrators can make it hard to tell the players without a scorecard. Among them will be:

• The Rev. Al Sharpton will lead a shadow inauguration Saturday on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building that culminates in participants taking a vow to uphold the Voting Rights Act, which Mr. Sharpton thinks was abridged in Florida during the election in November.

"It's a protest of the process," Mr. Sharpton said yesterday. "Nothing has changed in the process since November 7th, and if we were to have an election tomorrow, it would be filled with the same errors."

• LoudCitizen.com, a pro-Bush group based in Florida, will head for the steps of the Supreme Court building for a rally to support the incoming administration. Leftist-turned-conservative author and activist David Horowitz will speak at the 9 a.m. event, a gathering organizers call "more of a celebration than a protest."

"We don't quite have the massive organization that the other side does with the college campuses and such," said organizer Carolyn Abbott. "We're hoping for around a thousand conservatives."

• The Oral Majority, a boisterous homosexual group that claims Mr. Bush stole the November election, will set up at John Marshall Park at the beginning of the parade route.

Leader Bob Kunst peppers his rapid-fire rhetoric with profanity and humor. He considers the police presence a help to his effort and eschews affiliation with any other protest group.

"We're not interested in any of the other sideshows," Mr. Kunst said. "The election in Florida was stolen by Bush. That's what we are about."

His group will don crowns to mock what he calls a "coronation."

The peaceful approach stems from a new kind of civil expression the Internet as a gathering place.

"We've gotten in touch with each other since the election," said Jo Ann Simon, who is putting together a bus trip from Portland, Maine, for VoterMarch.org, a national group that bonded over the postelection acrimony.

"There is going to be a big protest," she said. "A lot of people in Washington are underestimating what is going on across the country. We are angry. A lot of these people have never protested before, but they are unhappy over the unfair election.

"We'll find a way to protest without doing any damage to anything."


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