Protesters unveiled more specifics about their plans yesterday for a spirited day of demonstrations to counter President Bush's second inauguration next Thursday, as one group said it was considering a lawsuit to gain more access to the parade route.
Officials, addressing plans for widespread street closings and a fireworks show Wednesday, advised federal employees who work downtown to stay home or to telecommute the day before the inauguration.
Demonstrators said they would mount nearly a dozen rallies and marches in Washington along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route and throughout downtown. The events, planned and sponsored separately, involve a mix of activists embracing causes that include opposition to the Iraq war, women's rights and the environment. A band of self-styled anarchists also plans to demonstrate.
"This is a people's uprising," said Shahid Buttar, 30, a Washington lawyer involved in the D.C. Cluster Spokescouncil, a coordinating body for about 50 local and out-of-town protest groups.
The size of the demonstrations remains unclear. Some organizers say the crowds will be bigger than those at Bush's 2001 inauguration, the occasion of the largest inaugural protest since Richard M. Nixon's second inauguration in 1973.
Not everyone rallying will be against the president. Conservatives and Christian activists will line parts of the parade route to show their support for Bush and to urge him to nominate Supreme Court justices who oppose abortion.
Anti-Bush demonstrators said they plan a mix of tactics. Some said they hope to provide a left-leaning response to the celebratory pageantry; others said they wanted to disrupt the festivities.
Anarchist Resistance said it will stage a "festive and rowdy march" from Franklin Square. A message posted on its Web site says: "There's nothing left to salvage in this empire that is the U.S. government. It's time to bring it down."
Some less-radical protesters plan to turn their backs on the president as the motorcade passes as part of a Turn Your Back on Bush event. Critical Mass bicyclists are planning two rides, from Union Station and Dupont Circle.
The D.C. Anti-War Network is sponsoring a rally at Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, in Columbia Heights and a march to McPherson Square. After the march, some participants will risk arrest by lying down at 16th and H streets NW, across from Lafayette Square, as part of a civil disobedience "die-in," organizers said.
"This administration . . . has earned themselves a protest," said Candice Kearns, 25, a junior at Naropa University in Boulder, Colo., who will ride in a caravan for 1,627 miles to get to Washington.
Like many other protesters seeking housing, Kearns is relying on the kindness of strangers: She is one of about 30 Colorado activists, all but one of whom will stay at a Mount Pleasant Episcopal church. District, Maryland and Virginia activists are opening their homes to protesters, posting accommodations on the Internet.
Some of the protests will be held within the no-drive area announced Tuesday, a large swath of downtown that will be closed Inauguration Day, with some streets closed before that.
To avoid gridlock, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management notified federal agency heads that they are allowed to let downtown employees go home early Wednesday and that they should consider urging them to take annual leave, compensatory time or unpaid leave. Workers also are urged to telecommute or take mass transit.