District braces for protests

Saturday’s Presidential Inauguration will bring more than 7,000 protesters to D.C., according to estimates by the U.S. Park Service.

As President-elect George W. Bush takes his oath of office on the Capitol steps, 14 separate demonstrations will take place at sites throughout D.C., including Dupont Circle and the Supreme Court.

“I hope to see tens of thousands of Americans expressing outrage,” said Bernard Pollack, an organizer from GW’s Action Coalition. “President Bush was elected illegitimately.”

With the support of 17 on-campus student groups, including the Progressive Student Union and the NAACP, Pollack estimates he will recruit between 500 and 1,000 GW students.

Pollack said GW students will join protesters from across the country to line the inaugural parade route and surround the Capitol grounds.

Secret Service agents and Metropolitan Police will line D.C. streets in full riot gear Saturday to make sure protests do not develop into anything more than peaceful demonstrations, said Sgt. Rob McLean, a U.S. Park Police spokesman.

McLean said the 1999 protests in Seattle coupled with the historical significance of the event has kept the Park Police, “on (their) toes.” But McLean said he does not expect a repeat of Seattle protest that resulted in injuries and arrests.

Protestors flooded D.C. streets to protest the IMF last April, resulting in hundreds of arrests and heated confrontations between police officers and demonstrators.

“All of the organizers are calling for peaceful demonstrations,” McLean said.

The U.S. Park Service approved 14 demonstration permits for Saturday.

In Dupont Circle, television journalist and social activist Michael Moore will join with campaign finance reform supporter “Granny D” to lead the “Million Voter March.” Granny D walked across the nation in support of campaign finance reform.

Across town on Maryland Avenue, the controversial Rev. Al Sharpton will host a “Shadow Inaugural March.”

Pollack said he expects a big turnout for Sharpton’s march.

National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland will make an appearance at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue to showcase her organization’s call for election reform.

Many GW students are passionate about the cause of protesting. Junior Nicholas Udu-gama will protest Saturday against Bush, whom he associates with militarization, globalization, free trade and the death penalty, he said.

“We want to let him know and the rest of the world know that we’re not going to sit by idly anymore,” Udu-gama said. “The ordinary people won’t be stomped on.”

Udu-gama said he is not a member of an organized protest group and is dedicated to non-violence.

Some students said the protests are a waste of time.

“(The protests) are not going to do anything,” junior Carolyn Despard said. “They’re just going to be wasting their breath.”

“I was going to go with my fraternity to protest the protestors,” freshman Nate Hibler said. “They should suck it up and deal.”

Kevin Conner, founder of Loudcitizen.com, will lead a demonstration of about 1,000 conservative voters. The demonstration, which will march under the banner “Respect the Will of the People” will urge an end to electoral discord and encourage a new “spirit of unity,” according to the group’s Web site.

Pollack said the inauguration is a very serious matter.

“The majority of Americans did not elect (President-elect Bush),” he said. “And we will be there to watch every step he takes.”

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