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Demonstrators Mobilize Under a Slew of Causes

Factions Plan Protests Over Several Days

By Manny Fernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 3, 2005; Page B01

As inaugural planners organize a $40 million pageant for President Bush this month, Ashwini Hardikar is preparing for another kind of spectacle.

The University of Michigan junior is one of thousands coming to Bush's second inauguration to show not their support for the president but their rage.

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"A lot of us are going to the inauguration out of desperation," said Hardikar, 20, who helped form a campus counter-inaugural committee to coordinate student trips to Washington. "We feel like we have to take desperate measures to feel like we've made a difference."

The Jan. 20th inauguration -- shaping up to be one of the most heavily secured and expensive in history -- will be the scene of small and large demonstrations. Organizers from dozens of local and national groups are planning marches, rallies and acts of civil disobedience on Inauguration Day and the days before and after.

Activists say the demonstrations will be as large -- if not larger -- than the protests at Bush's first inauguration in January 2001. They vow to create one of the biggest displays of opposition to the administration's foreign and domestic policies since the mass demonstrations at the summer's Republican National Convention in New York.

The battle between protesters and authorities has already begun. One group, International ANSWER, is preparing to sue the National Park Service over access to the Pennsylvania Avenue NW inaugural route. Demonstrators also are complaining about Secret Service restrictions on parade-route signs and displays, including a ban on puppets, papier-mache objects, coffins and signs more than three feet wide, 20 feet long and a quarter-inch thick.

"We think it's an illegal and unconstitutional overstepping by the Secret Service, working on behalf of the Bush administration, to prevent anti-Bush banners and signs from being visible along the parade route," said Brian Becker, national coordinator for ANSWER, an antiwar, anti-racism coalition.

Kevin Sheridan, a spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said the parade will be open to Americans of all political stripes. "The inauguration will celebrate all of the freedoms that make our democracy great, the First Amendment included," he said.

Jim Mackin, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said the agency respects the right of the public to demonstrate and "does not prohibit the presence of signs or props based on their content, only those items made of materials or of a size that could be used potentially in a threatening or harmful manner."

Park Service officials have said allegations that they are restricting access to the parade route are false. The public and demonstrators will be allowed onto open areas of the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk, officials said.

ANSWER's rally is one of several protests set for Inauguration Day, including a "die-in" and other actions still in the works in which people are preparing to risk arrest.

"The energy level is so high that we can't anticipate less than a massive turnout," said Morrigan Phillips, 24, a Washington activist involved with the D.C. Cluster Spokescouncil, one of the main counter-inaugural coalitions that includes representatives from roughly 45 local and out-of-town groups.

The Washington chapter of the group Free Republic plans to represent the other side, rallying on and near Pennsylvania Avenue to support the president and provide a haven from demonstrators, its co-leader, Kristinn Taylor, said.

Four years ago, thousands of demonstrators filled parts of downtown and lined several blocks of the parade route in the largest inaugural protest since the one during President Richard M. Nixon's second inauguration in 1973. Most protesters were peaceful, though there were a few arrests and some vandalism. An egg, four green apples and a plastic water bottle were tossed in the direction of the president's limousine.

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