January 20, 2001,
International Action Center
Photo by Deirdre Griswold

Tens of thousands
of protesters line
inaugural parade

The protests at Freedom Plaza and elsewhere along the inaugural parade route were so large that George W. Bush’s presidential caravan was forced to come to a complete halt for a full five minutes at 12th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue during the inaugural parade on Saturday, January 20

George Bush – racist murderer" is a chant that resonated from Freedom Plaza and down Pennsylvania Avenue as the Bush presidential caravan came to an abrupt halt at 12th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue NW midway through the inaugural parade.

The purpose of the delay was so that the earlier part of the march could completely clear the area around Freedom Plaza, allowing Bush’s limousine to speed quickly by.

From the Supreme Court ‘Shadow Inauguration’ protest to the demonstration by the National Organization for Women at 8th and Pennsylvania NW and concluding with the largest assembly of protesters at Freedom Plaza (14th St. and Pennsylvania NW), this inaugural event was marked by the president’s supporters being outnumbered by tens of thousands of opponents.

Corporate media tries to white out demonstration

Almost all the electronic media and the corporate-dominated "mainstream"

media attempted to white out the mass protest and the historic significance. Only fleeting glimpses of demonstrators were presented, and frequently there was no follow-up coverage at all.

"It has been our contention that the assention of George W. Bush to the presidency - by the racist disenfranchisement of voters - will not auger in a new right-wing conservative era, but on the contrary, swing the political pendulum to the left," stated Larry Holmes, a leader of the International Action Center (IAC). "Today’s demonstration is a vivid example that Bush will be a catalyst for the rebirth of social activism.

"The uniform whiting out of the demonstration by the mass media is evidence that the political establishment fears the emergence of a new movement for social justice. They want to downplay or erase the historical significance of this demonstration," Holmes concluded

"What happened at today’s demonstration is precisely what the Bush administration has tried to prevent for the past month. They feared that every block of Pennsylvania Avenue would be filled with thousands of placard-waving protesters who oppose Bush on the death penalty, U.S. militarism, his desire to eliminate abortion rights, his opposition to the lesbian/gay/bi/trans community, and his hostility to the labor movement and to workers’ rights," said Brian Becker, a spokesperson for the International Action Center.

The U.S. Secret Service in tandem with Bush’s Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) established an unprecedented system of checkpoints and a militarized security cordon around all of Pennsylvania Avenue. The demonstrators and their attorneys had insisted that the checkpoints were an unconstitutional measure that discriminated against demonstrators, the African American community and opponents of the Bush administration

The legal team, headed by the DC-based Partnership for Civil Justice and the National Lawyers Guild, sued the government in U.S. District Court,insisting that an injunction be granted that would strike down the government security plan because it was a "pretext" to eliminate the first amendment rights of demonstrators

"This legal action, ‘International Action Center, et al vs. the United States,’ was a groundbreaking lawsuit in defense of the First Amendment," stated Mara Verhuiven-Hilliard.

Verhuiven-Hilliard continued, "The U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler described the check points as ‘odius.’ She described checkpoints as having a ‘chilling effect.’ She denied the plaintiffs’ injunctive relief based upon the guarantees given in oral arguments before the court by government attorneys that the check points would not be used in a discriminatory fashion to prevent, obstruct or keep the demonstrators from reaching the permitted demonstration site, as well as the sections of the parade route that were open to the public."

"The check points established at the demonstration did violate the oral guarantees given in Judge Kessler’s court on Friday, January 19," stated Brian Becker. "Though thousands of demonstrators were held back and slowed down at the check points, there are many cases of Bush supporters being waved through the check points in large numbers

"The check points were an unprecedented effort by the police authorities to restrain free speech on behalf of a private organization, the presidential inaugural committee," continued Becker.

"We are building a new movement for social justice," stated Teresa Gutierrez, a leader of the IAC. "This is not just one demonstration. It is part of a process that will rekindle a militant movement that seeks to put people’s needs before those of the corporations and banks. The people came from Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Maine, Florida and everywhere in between. George Bush will not succeed in implementing this reactionary program because we will forge a mass movement in defense of the rights of the people."

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