Hail to the Thief

On Saturday, January 20, some 750,000 people will crowd into downtown Washington, DC to pay tribute to the inauguration of George W. Bush as the nation's 43rd president.

Not everyone will be happy.


Who's Coming to the Party?

The following groups are known to be organizing protests relating to George W. Bush's presidential inauguration in Washington DC on Saturday, Jan. 20. Listings include contact information, issues, and plans. -- G.P.

BananaBushRepublic: bananabush.com; Florida electoral misdeeds; rally at capitol in Austin Jan. 20; in D.C., gather 10 AM @ DuPont Circle and march to Supreme Court (with VoterMarch.org etc.).

Barricada Collective: www.infoshop.org/coronation.html; anti-corporate, anti-state "For a classless, stateless society"; meet 10 AM @ 14th & Penn. NW (includes numerous other anarchist groups).

Center for Constitutional Rights: 212-614-6464; Racism, Florida, Voting Rights Act, variously called the "People's Inaugural," "National Day of Resistance," and "Voting Rights Initiative"; gather at Stanton Park (4th & Maryland NE) at noon and march two blocks to Supreme Court. (Includes Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Walter Fauntroy & New Bethel Baptist Church, IPPN.)

Christian Defense Coalition: Rev. Patrick Mahoney, 202-547-1735, 540-373-8099. Anti-abortion. Gather along Penn. Ave.

Democracy March: www.democracymarch.org; Teresa Ward 718-507-0317. Stolen election, electoral reform, campaign finance, "March on Washington." Meet 10 AM @ DuPont Circle, march to Supreme Court (with VoterMarch etc.)

Direct Action Network: www.directactionnetwork.org; 212-358-3966. Anti-corporate. March backwards along parade route, starting at 2 PM. Unconfirmed.

Independent Progressive Politics Network: www.ippn.org; 973-338-5398; electoral reform "Pro-Democracy Week"; teach-ins in cities across the country the week of Jan. 15-20, in D.C. will march with Center for Constitutional Rights etc.

International Action Center: www.iacenter.org; 212-633-6646; racism, death penalty "Stop the Death Machine"; meet 10 AM @ 14th & Penn. NW.

Justice Action Movement: www.j20.org; www.inaugurauction.org; anti- corporate; Adam Eidinger 202-986-6186; plans include "teach-ins, trainings, parades, marches, street theatre, concerts, and an Inauguraction Ball."

Kensington Welfare Rights Union: www.kwru.org; 215-203-1945; welfare rights; buses from Philadelphia to protest in DC; DC plans TBA.

National Organization for Women: www.now.org; 202-628-8669x126; Florida, reproductive rights; rally 11:30-2:30 @ Navy Memorial, Penn. between 8th & 9th NW.

New Black Panther Party: permit listed under "People for Self- Determination"; Malik Shabazz 202-234-1349; Racism "Day of Outrage"; plans TBA.

Northern Virginia Republican PAC: www.loudcitizen.com;, James Parmalee 703-502-0161; pro-Bush "Patriot's March on DC" in response to anti-Bush protests; meet 9 AM in front of Supreme Court, rally and march to Mall.

Oral Majority: www.oralmajorityonline.com; Bob Kunst 305-864-5110. Florida, stolen election. "Freedom Ride" buses and rallies from Miami to D.C., rally in front of White House Jan. 20.

Rainbow Party/PUSH: www.rainbowpush.org; 773-373-3366. Racism, Florida, "Week of Moral Outrage"; local protests week of Jan. 15-20 in "hundreds of cities." Rev. Jesse Jackson will participate in a march in Tallahassee, Fla.

VoterMarch.org: www.votermarch.org; Louis Posner 212-421-2255; electoral reform "Million Voter March"; meet 10 AM & rally at DuPont Circle, march to Supreme Court (includes Countercoup.org, Trustthepeople.com, Democracy March, Bananabushrepublic.com).



Inaugurations, particularly Republican ones, tend to draw protests. George Bush Sr. faced "1,000 Sparks of Dissent" in 1989. In 1973, in the largest inaugural protest in modern history, up to a third of the 300,000 present came specifically to scorn the re-coronation of Richard M. Nixon.

Several small groups had been planning for months to protest on January 20, no matter who won the White House. But when George W. Bush not only lost the popular vote, but in all likelihood rightfully lost Florida and the electoral college vote as well -- and still managed to ascend to the Oval Office -- those small protests mushroomed and more sprang up. All but two are anti-Bush. The various other protests now being organized by more than a dozen groups have a wide range of concerns, from the death penalty to butterfly ballots, bringing everybody to Washington from Gore partisans to anarchist youth to black revolutionaries, but the gist of their messages is essentially the same: the Bush presidency is illegitimate.

What's most interesting about this cacophony of voices is not who's present, but who's absent. The groups involved (see sidebar), with the exception of Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH and NOW, are not part of the Democratic Party's activist base. The partisan politicos- -labor, big environmental groups, party activists -- who you'd expect to be most incensed about George II's stolen election, and alarmed at its consequences, aren't a visible part of this uprising.

Instead, the liberal, left, and radical anti-Bush protesters who will be in DC's streets January 20 generally (except for NOW) have small organizations, or none at all. The demonstration designed most explicitly to protest Bush's ascendency and demand electoral reform, VoterMarch.org, is a DuPont Circle rally and march being organized almost entirely through the Internet, by Internet-connected activists who didn't even know each other until after Nov. 7. "What we feel is that the [sense] of the people is outrage over blatant abuses of the rights of voters across this nation," says Louis Posner, a New York attorney who is chairman of VoterMarch. Teresa Ward, of another Internet-spawned group headed for DuPont Circle, Democracy March, adds that "We must express our complete frustration and our feelings of the illegitimacy of [Bush's] presidency."

Also concerned about Florida shenanigans is a cluster of groups and prominent individuals -- the Center for Constitutional Rights, Rev. Al Sharpton, Walter Fauntroy, and, separately, the New Black Panther Party -- outraged by Florida's alleged abuses of minority voting access on Nov. 7. Sharpton et al will be gathering at the Supreme Court, a venue loaded with significance for Gore partisans and other Gore v. Bush critics.

The Sharpton protest also bodes the greatest threat of conflict. While all of these demonstrations will be taking place surrounded by Bush supporters, the Supreme Court will also host a pro-Bush rally, called by many of the same aggressive GOP activists who organized pro-Bush events in DC all through the Florida crisis. "We're holding a celebration of democracy at the Supreme Court to draw a counterpoint to the left wing protests," says Jim Parmalee of the Northern Virginia Republican Political Action Committee, an organizer of the "Patriot's March on DC." "Our rally is going to be Middle America, all ages, all races, a celebration of America, as opposed to the left-wing radicals, a large segment of which are protesting not because they're unhappy with the election results, but because they're unhappy with what America stands for."

Indeed, the third major gathering point of protesters -- at 14th and Pennsylvania NW -- is a strange amalgam of groups united by their distaste for "what America stands for" -- and for Democrats and Republicans alike. Nicolas of the Barricada Collective, which put out the original notice for black bloc anarchists to attend, lets loose: "We are protesting...against the dictatorship of capital, otherwise referred to as representative democracy, and...for a classless, stateless society, based on self-management, mutual aid, socialism, and freedom."

Other groups include the Justice Action Movement (JAM), a DC-based coalition that brings in many of the elements (and a few of the same people) that protested globalization in the streets of Seattle and DC; and the International Action Center, a New York-based outfit focusing here on racism and the death penalty. (The IAC has relatively few members, but with few well-known organizations participating, it has gotten much of the advance press attention for these protests.)

All of these groups would have been present regardless of who won the presidential election. As the IAC's Sarah Sloan notes, "Many of the issues we're raising would be equally relevant."

And, of course, not all of the protests will be in Washington. A Florida- based group of Gore partisans, the "Oral Majority," is bringing buses from Miami to DC, with protests along the way and at the White House on Jan. 20. Two groups -- Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH, and the Independent Progressive Politics Network, an advocacy group for third parties and electoral reform backed primarily by Greens and Labor Party types -- are calling for demonstrations in cities across the country during the week of Jan. 15-20. Yet another national group, BananaBushRepublic.com, is planning to mount a demonstration in Austin as well as DC. And smaller locally organized protests will be happening all over.

DC police are taking no chances. Unlike last April's World Bank/IMF protests in Washington, no civil disobedience plans have been announced by any of the protesting DC groups; they intend to make their points through banners, placards, puppets, speakers, marches, songs, chants, and their sheer presence.

Regardless, police mobilization will be the largest in memory for inaugural security. DC Metro's Sgt. Joe Gentile is tactful: "We hope everything will be peaceful and go well, without any problem." But he notes that over a thousand extra police will be on duty, and arrangements have been made to bring in extra police from a number of surrounding jurisdictions. The DC-based JAM has accused police of infiltrating their meetings, which DC police will neither confirm nor deny.

Police will undoubtably be heavily protecting all of the inaugural venues; it's hard to imagine that any protesters will be able to actually interfere with the the inaugural parade or the inauguration ceremony itself. And VoterMarch.org's DC organizer, Bob Rogers, claims that police have already cordoned off areas surrounding the Supreme Court and White House, weeks before the big day.

With all of these groups descending upon Washington and the new Bush Administration, one obvious question begs to be asked: What's the point? Gore has conceded. What does mobilizing angry citizens, even tens of thousands of them, in a sea of Dubya fans, accomplish? The answers vary.

According to Kim Gandy, Executive Vice President of the National Organization for Women, demonstrating on January 20 means that "We're going to be keeping an eye on Bush; we're going to be keeping an eye on politicans of both houses so that they keep their promises to women." For the Florida-based Oral Majority's Bob Kunst, "We're demanding a federal investigation of election fraud...we're always going to treat George W. Bush as King George. We should never treat this thief with any respect."

Louis Posner, of VoterMarch.org, lays out the common agenda of all of the anti-Bush groups: "Our long-term goal is to correct the failures and inadequacies in our system so that we become a more democratic country. Candidates such as Bush and his right-wing cohorts cannot be in a position to abuse our system and be elected contrary to the will of the people."

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