- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Police in the District are preparing for a weekend of demonstrations that could bring as many as 100,000 protesters and test new procedures on handling them.

The demonstrations are scheduled from tomorrow through Monday, but police officials anticipate the biggest turnout Saturday at an anti-war and anti-racism rally on the Ellipse, immediately south of the White House.

The event is scheduled to include a speech by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose enlisted son was killed while fighting in Iraq.

“It’s possible that this will be the largest anti-war demonstration since the war in Iraq began in March 2003,” said Caneisha Miller, a spokeswoman for event organizer Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or ANSWER.

Miss Miller said the group has permits from the Metropolitan Police Department that allows it to start a march at 11:30 a.m. that will go from the Ellipse, north on 15th Street Northwest to the front of the White House, west on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, north on 17th Street Northwest, east on H Street Northwest, then back to the starting point.

U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear said the agency has canceled vacations and other leaves and that officers will be out in force. However, he did not expect problems.

“The majority of these groups meet with us regularly,” he said. “They want to be able to come back so we believe what they tell us. It’s the splinter groups that we worry about.”

In the past, such groups have used the demonstrations as cover to set fires, break windows and destroy private property.

Such violence during a 2002 protest resulted in Metropolitan Police Department officers herding demonstrators without permits into Pershing Park in Northwest. Among those arrested were onlookers and reporters who were restrained, taken by Metro bus to a police station, then made to wait several hours while their paperwork was processed.

An investigation concluded that police failed to give demonstrators enough warning to disperse, which resulted in new laws that took effect in April.

The laws limit officers’ use of police lines to entrap demonstrators and their use of wrist-to-ankle restraints. They also require officers to wear identifiable badge numbers.

The Metropolitan Police Department has yet to release details on street closures and other plans such as canceling leave time for officers, help from other jurisdictions and activating the city’s network of surveillance cameras.

The most disruptive event could be on Sunday when the group Mobilization for Global Justice is scheduled to join the group Adopt an Intersection to block streets to keep International Monetary Fund and World Bank officers from getting to their semiannual meetings.

At about the same time, the group Operation Iraqi Hope will hold a rally in support of the war in Iraq that will include parents and family members of soldiers who gave their lives in support of the effort. The rally is scheduled to take place from noon until 3 p.m. on the Mall at Fourth Street Northwest.

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