No buttons, signs or unusual dress will distinguish the protesters from the thousands who will line the inaugural parade route next month, but at a set time, they say they will demonstrate against President Bush — by turning their backs on the chief executive.
Coupled with the widely expected pomp and pageantry of a presidential inauguration are demonstrations by protesters angered by Bush’s policies, in particular the war in Iraq.
The National Park Service has agreed to give anti-war demonstrators a prime spot along the inaugural parade route.
The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition is planning to erect its own bleachers in the space, an open plaza on Pennsylvania Ave., just a few blocks from the Capitol building, said Brian Becker, national coordinator for the group. The bleachers could seat up to 1,000 people and the park service estimates up to 10,000 could fill the space standing shoulder to shoulder.
“I don’t think it’s ever happened in history that the anti-war movement has ever been able to have this kind of setup,” Becker said.
Getting ready for Jan. 20, 2005, various groups are using Web sites, e-mails, fliers and word of mouth to urge thousands of demonstrators to gather in the nation’s capital.
Other planned protests include a massive bike ride similar to those that disrupted traffic in New York City before the Republican National Convention and a “die-in” to remind the nation of more than 1,200 U.S. dead in Iraq.
Through the Web site www.turnyourbackonbush.org, protesters are urging demonstrators to leave political buttons and placards at home, join other parade-goers on the afternoon of the inauguration and then, as Bush’s motorcade passes, show the president their backs.
“Turning your back is as old as authority itself,” said Jet Heiko, a Philadelphia-based protest organizer. “It’s a very understandable symbol for defying authority.”
On its Web site, the group called it a unique action because “we won’t know who is participating until the moment it begins.”
The DC Anti-War Network is organizing a rally and march to the White House on the morning of the inauguration, getting the word out through the Web site www.counter-inaugural.org/, which says, “Bush isn’t going away, and neither are we.”
The violence in Iraq was one reason more than 100,000 protesters filled New York City streets on a Sunday morning in August before the Republican convention. Organizers of the inauguration protests expect stronger feelings toward the war to persuade thousands to travel to Washington next month.
Heightened security, January weather and the calendar — the inauguration falls on a Thursday — are certain to limit the numbers.
In 2000, additional officers from the Metropolitan Police and other law enforcement agencies kept order, and no major confrontations occurred and only a handful of people were arrested. Security is expected to be even tighter for the first inauguration since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Four years ago, protest organizers capitalized on strong feelings over the disputed election, which had barely subsided, and the timing inauguration fell on a Saturday. This year’s election was settled weeks ago, on Nov. 3, when Democratic Sen. John Kerry called to congratulate Bush.
Still, organizers hope to attract a crowd.
“We got 80 percent of people to protest the Republican Convention in New York in the last week,” said Jim Macdonald of the DC Anti-War Network.