- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2001

The inaugural celebrations today will give police and protesters, commuters and party-goers a good idea of what to expect over the weekend.

Anti-establishment activists will have "a strong showing" at today's opening ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial, creating a test-run for authorities on handling demonstrations through the weekend.

Street closings and a regular workday for federal employees likely will create traffic congestion during the afternoon rush hour.

Organizers say they expect as many as 200,000 people to attend the 3:30 p.m. opening ceremonies, but the National Park Service forecasts a crowd of 100,000.

President-elect George W. Bush and Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney are expected to address the audience, as is Secretary of State-nominee Colin Powell. Pop star Ricky Martin will perform ahead of the fireworks finale, which will begin about 6 p.m.

Activists want to make their presence felt early in the inaugural festivities and will attend today's events.

Members of the Justice Action Movement (JAM) a local group organizing Saturday protests plan to show up early and "get absolutely as close as possible" to the stage where Mr. Bush and others will pump up a crowd of supporters this afternoon, said Daniel Holstein, an organizer with JAM.

"We're going to have a presence at the official opening ceremony of this quote-unquote inaugural," Mr. Holstein said. "Our intention is to get absolutely as close as possible, and to be nonviolent. We expect to get just as close as the supporters."

The activists plan to employ stilt-walking, puppets and other forms of "street theater," Mr. Holstein said.

The U.S. Park Police are "aware of the possibility demonstrators will show up, and we have resources and plans to deal with that," said Sgt. Rob MacLean, a spokesman for the agency.

Protest organizers could not estimate how many demonstrators will show up today. Many activists have not yet arrived in the Washington area, and local activists are busy planning for Saturday's protests.

Today's ceremonies, led by CNN talk-show host Larry King, are free and open to the public. Police have no plans to exclude demonstrators, Sgt. MacLean said.

"This is going to be a very peaceful event," U.S. Park Police Chief Robert E. Langston said. "We expect large crowds."

Authorities will check bags and packages for alcohol and weapons at five checkpoints, which open around noon. Like the Millennium Celebration, those checkpoints could cause delays for attendees.

The regulations on protesters will be more lax today than during the inaugural parade on Saturday.

Demonstrators can protest in groups of fewer than 25 without a permit. Larger groups must get a permit, said Sgt. MacLean, citing Park Police regulations.

"If they don't, they won't be allowed inside the area," he said.

If smaller groups enter the ceremony grounds "and then join up in the interior, then they'd be over 25, and we'd have to take action at that point," Sgt. MacLean said.

Inaugural organizers have used words like "inclusive, open and positive" in discussing this weekend's events. Activists plan to capitalize on those descriptions.

Any attempt to exclude "someone who isn't a card-carrying member of the GOP," as one activist put it, likely will bring cries of rights violations.

The activists filed a lawsuit this week against local and federal officials in an effort to gain greater access to the parade route. The lawsuit remains under consideration by a D.C. Superior Court judge.

The largest contingent of law enforcement officers ever for an inauguration will provide tight security on Saturday, complete with checkpoints along the parade route and searches of bags. At least a dozen protest groups will be scattered along the parade route.

For commuters, today may be more than the beginning of inaugural weekend.

Federal workers, as of yesterday, have not been granted a paid day off, so many likely will choose to work and endure the commuting delays. The Office of Personnel Management and D.C. officials have encouraged workers to use compensation time, a vacation day or unpaid leave.

High-occupancy vehicle restrictions on Interstate 66 will be open to all traffic this afternoon starting at 3 p.m., said the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Motorists on Interstate 395 and Interstate 95 will find the reversible lanes open one hour earlier at noon today.

Metro will run a shuttle to the Lincoln Memorial from the Smithsonian and Foggy Bottom-GWU stations starting at 1:30 p.m. today.

After the fireworks, Metro shuttles will run to the Smithsonian, L'Enfant Plaza, Metro Center, Farragut North and Farragut West stations but not Foggy Bottom, said Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann.

Mr. Feldmann said attendees should not count on using the shuttles.

"Keep in mind, 15 or 20 buses will not carry 100,000 people," he said.

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