- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2001

A federal judge will decide on a protester lawsuit this morning in a ruling that could drastically alter security procedures for tomorrow's inauguration, where activists are hoping to rain on President-elect George W. Bush's parade.
An attorney for the activists asked U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler to order police not to use 10 security checkpoints for the public viewing area, arguing they are designed to intimidate demonstrators and prevent them from bringing in large signs.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney with the Partnership for Civil Justice, also said the policies and procedures for searching persons at the checkpoints are vague and give police too much authority.
Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard said authorities are demonizing peaceful demonstrators and citing past protest violence to justify more restrictive access to the inaugural parade.
"They talked about extensive violence from these demonstrators. The violence came from the police," Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard said. "This is the demonization of law-abiding demonstrators."
Judge Kessler indicated at the hearing yesterday that she had "no information" that the use of checkpoints for security reasons is unconstitutional.
Judge Kessler also said the checkpoints could cause delays and disruptions for persons attending the parade.
"I think those checkpoints will make a number of people awful mad during Inauguration Day," Judge Kessler said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Lawrence assured Judge Kessler that only packages and coolers will be searched, and no one will be patted down as they enter the area of the parade. He said everyone will have to follow the same rules.
Authorities have instituted unprecedented security measures for the inaugural parade this year, including miles of chain-link fence with only the 10 checkpoints under dispute.
Officials also announced last week that any sign pole at the parade must be wooden and three-quarters of an inch thick at most a standard normally used by the National Park Police for routine demonstrations on the White House sidewalk.
Puppets and stilts favored props used by activists for "street theater" were banned from the parade route because they could conceal weapons or even be used as weapons, authorities said.
Police have said the extra security is necessary because of the amount of disruptive and violent behavior in recent months caused by IMF and World Bank demonstrators in Seattle, Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.
"The efforts here are not to keep people out, but for security for the president and the vice president to traverse to the White House," Mr. Lawrence said.
Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard also asked that the International Action Center, an organization demonstrating against the death penalty, be allowed to use all of Freedom Plaza, as it requested.
Mr. Lawrence said the Presidential Inaugural Committee already received a permit for the plaza as well as the sidewalks along the parade route for bleachers.
Meanwhile, the opening ceremony of the inauguration came and went without disruptions from protesters.
Ricky Martin crooned his hits undeterred by the ballyhooed protest groups, most of whom are still arriving and dispersing around the District.
"We've had around 100 people, maybe 200, check in here so far," Debrom Kokobu said yesterday afternoon, working at a welcoming center for demonstrators in Adams Morgan. "We expect most of the people coming into town for this will be here by tomorrow afternoon."
The protesters are housed in hostels, churches, private homes and some of the area's hotels.
Police conducted their first protest-related arrest yesterday morning when three members of Greenpeace were taken into custody after the trio unfurled a banner from the Department of Interior building.
The large red, white and blue pennant read "Bush and Norton: Our land, not oil land!" Greenpeace is protesting the appointment of Gale A. Norton as interior secretary.
The three detainees were pulled from a fifth-floor alcove of the building and charged with disorderly conduct.
John Drake contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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