House Democrats from the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia joined Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) in writing to Bush yesterday to object to the administration's decision to require the District to pay $17.3 million in inauguration-related costs out of the region's federal homeland security grants.
"I think the president would be embarrassed that his administration is asking people in the District and the entire region to bear the . . . financial burden of the upcoming inauguration," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
"This is a cost that should be covered by the people of the entire country."
Protest organizers, some of whom expressed outrage at the multimillion-dollar price tag for the inauguration, said they are worried that heightened security will stifle dissent.
International ANSWER said it is prepared to sue the National Park Service over access to the parade route. The group accused authorities of excluding the public and demonstrators to make room for bleachers on Pennsylvania Avenue for ticket-holding Bush supporters. ANSWER plans a 9 a.m. rally at John Marshall Park, Fourth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, where members said they would erect bleachers of their own.
"The Bush administration, in conjunction with the National Park Service, is trying to stage-manage democracy," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney for the D.C.-based Partnership for Civil Justice.
She said that aside from Marshall Park, "there is virtually no open space" for demonstrators and people who don't have tickets to gather on Pennsylvania.
Park Service spokesman Bill Line denied that there were extraordinary limits on space open to the public. Line said those not in bleachers would be allowed onto open areas of the sidewalks. "The National Park Service welcomes the members of the general public into those areas, but it's ultimately up to the Secret Service as to how many people will be allowed to fill those open spaces," Line said.
He said that Marshall Park, at 95,192 square feet, is the largest space where demonstrators can gather on the parade route.
Staff writers Spencer S. Hsu and Stephen Barr contributed to this report.