Antiwar demonstrators will take to the streets, breast cancer survivors and their supporters will run or walk on the Mall, and families and community leaders in Anacostia will march to call attention to young victims of violence in the District.
On Saturday, the three varied events are expected by organizers to draw thousands outside on what is shaping up to be an unusually busy late spring afternoon in the capital. D.C. police officials are not anticipating any problems keeping order -- the timing and locations give each gathering its own space.
Activists with International ANSWER, an antiwar, anti-racism coalition that has sponsored some of Washington's biggest demonstrations against the war in Iraq, plan to rally at the White House and then march to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's home in Northwest Washington.
Organizers said they expect a crowd "in the thousands" for the noon rally and 2 p.m. march. Bus and car caravans are being organized from 31 cities in the East, Midwest and elsewhere -- far fewer than for some of the group's previous antiwar marches in Washington.
Earlier Saturday, thousands are expected to flood the streets around the Mall to raise funds to help fight breast cancer. About 50,000 runners and walkers are anticipated for the 15th annual Komen National Race for the Cure.
The 5K race, sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, will begin at 8 a.m. for runners at Ninth Street and Constitution Avenue NW and at 8:15 a.m. for walkers at 12th and Constitution. Participants will proceed in and around the Mall to the finish line near 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. A post-race rally will be held at nearby Freedom Plaza.
Last year, the race raised more than $2.6 million for research, education, screening and treatment programs in the Washington area and across the country, foundation officials said.
"It's a community event," said Sloane Burke, a race organizer. "Breast cancer touches more than just the survivor. It touches family members, friends. . . . Research needs to be done until a cure is found."
Across the Anacostia River, marchers plan to address the plight of youth in the District. For 22 years, the Unifest gathering in Southeast has celebrated the Anacostia community's culture and spirit. But this year, the Rev. Willie F. Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church, the sponsor of the event, and other Southeast ministers decided to change the tone of the festival in light of recent killings of city youth.
The number of homicide victims younger than 18 in the District has already surpassed last year's total of a dozen.
Wilson and the ministers decided that "this was no time to celebrate," said Vernon Hawkins, Union Temple administrator. Saturday's event from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., called Uni-Love, is to remember victims of violence, help raise money for 5,000 summer jobs for youth and urge the faith-based community to create programs for young people, Hawkins said.
The event will begin with the Chelsea Cromartie Walk of Remembrance, named for the 8-year-old killed by a stray bullet as she watched television in a Northeast Washington house May 3.
The walk, in honor of all young people killed in the District this year, will start at Ballou Senior High School on Fourth Street SE and end at W Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), Wilson and other political and religious leaders have said they will join a crowd that Hawkins said could total as many as 100,000.
The antiwar organizers hope to capitalize on eroding public support for the U.S. occupation of Iraq amid continuing violence and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
"We believe that our movement is getting stronger while the Bush administration's standing is getting weaker," said Brian Becker, 51, a national coordinator of ANSWER, or Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.
Organizers had initially called for a march to the Pentagon, but those plans were scrapped, they said, in favor of a Speak Truth to Power procession that will take protesters out of the federal corridor and into Northwest neighborhoods such as U Street and Dupont Circle.
The permitted demonstration will begin at noon with a rally at Lafayette Square across from the White House. Organizers said a featured speaker will be Michael Berg, who has spoken out against the war and the Bush administration following the beheading of his 26-year-old son, Nicholas, by Islamic militants in Iraq. Representatives of Muslim groups, labor unions and other organizations also are slated to speak.
After the rally, the march will proceed north on 14th Street NW, west on U Street and Florida Avenue and up Connecticut Avenue to Rumsfeld's home on Kalorama Road NW.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an ANSWER organizer, said Rumsfeld "represents the face of U.S. aggression and militarism." No civil disobedience is planned at either the White House or Rumsfeld's home, organizers said.
Assistant Police Chief Alfred J. Broadbent said he would deploy extra officers but did not expect problems. Mostly, he said, officers would make sure the protesters were escorted safely through traffic. "ANSWER is a group that works very closely with us," he said. "We don't expect any problems from the group."
The antiwar movement has struggled to regain the momentum that last February led to a worldwide day of demonstrations that drew 6 million to 12 million protesters in about 75 countries. Activists have held numerous smaller gatherings in Washington, New York and other cities since then, but the movement has been relatively subdued in recent weeks as the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel has dominated the media.
Becker said the organizing after the war has taken on a different tone. "Now that the war has happened and the occupation has become a reality," he said, "everyone realizes that the U.S. occupation will not be ended in a matter of days or weeks, that the drama of an impending war has been replaced by an understanding that the effort to end the occupation is a long-term struggle, as it was during Vietnam."
ANSWER organizers say the money being used to wage war should instead go to education, housing and health care. They condemn the rising death toll of Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers. And they say the war in Iraq and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are manifestations of imperialism.
In the grass-roots universe of U.S. antiwar coalitions, ANSWER is perhaps the most controversial. Conservatives have criticized the group for the socialist views of some of its leaders and for supporting the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
The D.C. chapter of Free Republic, a national conservative group, will hold a counter-demonstration outside Rumsfeld's home to show support for the secretary of defense, said Kristinn Taylor, a co-leader of the local chapter.
"We think he's done a great job," Taylor said. "He's led the armed forces through two fantastic victories, liberating two countries, about 50 million people, from tyranny."
Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.