Human Mosaic to Take Shape in D.C.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Downtown Washington will be a busy and eclectically populated piece of American turf this weekend, with protesters, counter-protesters, international bankers, bookworms, baseball fans and enthusiasts of the odd-looking, two-wheeled human transporters known as Segways descending on the nation's capital.
In addition to today's antiwar rally, march and concert near the White House and Washington Monument, expected to draw about 100,000 people, the Mall will be the site of the National Book Festival sponsored by the Library of Congress every year.
Nearby, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund will hold their fall meetings, and in the Hotel Washington, SegwayFest will draw dozens of the gyroscopic devices and their proud owners for a national convention. At Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, the Washington Nationals will play the New York Mets tonight and tomorrow afternoon.
Transportation officials are asking people to leave their cars at home and take Metro. Police will be closing many downtown streets at various times and mobilizing their forces for a busy weekend.
"We are expecting a very large crowd for the antiwar demonstration," said D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, adding that he thinks the number of protesters could "easily exceed" the 100,000 estimated by organizers.
D.C. police yesterday activated 14 closed-circuit surveillance cameras to help them monitor the antiwar demonstrations and any activity near the IMF and World Bank. The cameras send live video feeds to a command center at police headquarters.
Ramsey said he has canceled days off for officers and put them on 12-hour shifts to boost staffing for today's demonstrations and to sustain patrols in the city's seven police districts. He said several hundred officers will be deployed downtown to monitor the march, rallies and counter-protests.
"We don't anticipate any problems," Ramsey said. "We'll monitor the march as it proceeds through downtown, but we don't anticipate any problems as a result of the parade."
Ramsey said police will pay attention to the possibility of protests at the World Bank and IMF, though a rally targeting those institutions is planned several blocks away at Dupont Circle. "We'll have to wait and see how that goes," he said.
U.S. Park Police, who patrol the Ellipse and other areas where rallies are being staged, also have canceled days off. They will have several hundred officers in uniform, in plainclothes, on horseback and on bicycles patrolling the crowds, said Sgt. Scott Fear, a Park Police spokesman.
The security detail will include the area around the National Book Festival, which will be on the Mall between Seventh and 14th streets.
Book festival spokeswoman Audrey Fischer said organizers of the fifth annual event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and is free and open to the public, are working with Park Police to ensure that there is appropriate crowd control in light of other events on the Mall.