JANUARY 17, 2001, 5 PM

Status of January 20 demonstration and our groundbreaking lawsuit for free speech

Attorneys representing the January 20 Counter-Inaugural protesters are awaiting word as to when a hearing will be scheduled on their motion for a preliminary injunction against the "security plan" devised by the Secret Service, DC police and other agencies for the January 20 inauguration and the demonstration that is scheduled to take place at the same time.

The lawsuit—"International Action Center, et al, vs. the United States of America"—is requesting a preliminary injunction and was filed Tuesday, January 16 at 2:30 pm in the U.S. District Court. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the IAC, JAM and other protest groups.

The Complaint, the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and the attached Memorandum can be found at the web site of the Partnership for Civil Justice: www.justiceonline.org (a link to this page can be found on the IAC web site: www.iacenter.org). The lawsuit seeks to strike down the announced "security plan" as constitutionally invalid for a number of reasons (see below). (For the full lawsuit, see www.justiceonline.org.)

We are confident that we will prevail in this historic lawsuit. We should remember that we had to first overcome the obstinacy of the police, who did not want to grant us the permit for Freedom Plaza in the first place. Our legal pressure, the mass mobilization of the people and intense media scrutiny forced the government to acknowledge that we indeed do have the legal right to these permits. The lawsuit seeks to strike down other obstacles and impediments placed in the path of our being able to conduct a massive legal, lawful and orderly demonstration.

We have already won a tremendous victory. The world media and as a consequence people throughout the world now know that the struggle for free speech is alive and well in Washington DC. Furthermore, a bright light now shines on the Secret Service, the DC police and the Bush administration.

Although we do not yet know the outcome of the lawsuit, we do know that people from all over the United States are paying attention to this struggle and that we will have the active involvement of many thousands and the active support of millions who agree with the demonstration but may not be able to personally attend the activity.

It is of great importance that thousands of people from around the country are coming to Washington DC on January 20, the first day of the administration of George W. Bush as the 43rd President, to demonstrate opposition to his conservative and right-wing policies. They include Civil Rights organizations, workers’ unions, immigrant rights organizations, women’s groups, the lesbian/gay/bi/trans movement, and those opposed to U.S. military intervention in the Third World have coalesced into a new progressive movement for social change.

It is an irony of history that George W. Bush—an unelected, right-wing politician—upon assuming the presidency, will act as a catalyst--not for a new conservative era—but on the contrary, for the rebirth of a progressive movement for social justice.

The January 20 counter-inaugural demonstration is not merely a single event, but a step in the process towards the rebirth of a new movement for social justice.

Bush wants to put Confederates in the cabinet, he wants to roll back workers’ rights, affirmative action, Roe v Wade and women’s reproductive rights. He wants to give trillions in tax breaks to the already wealthy, he wants to build the National Missile Defense, which is a gigantic subsidy to the military-industrial complex.

George W. Bush’s real constituency is Big Oil, the big pharmaceuticals, the HMOs and the big war contractors. If allowed, he will fleece the working and poor people in the U.S., for the benefit of the corporate elite.


The lawsuit was filed by attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice and the National Lawyers Guild on behalf of those who plan to organize protests at the January 20 inauguration.

Our lawsuit specifically asserts that the government’s current security plan for the January 20 inauguration is "constitutionally invalid."

While the National Parks Service was forced to grant us permits to rally at Freedom Plaza (14th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. NW), at the Justice Department (Pennsylvania Ave. between 9th and 10th St. NW), and at McPherson Square (15th and I St. NW), we believe that the Secret Service, Metropolitan police and other government agencies are using the issue of national security as a pretext to inhibit, violate and subvert our constitutionally-protected guarantees to free speech.

The lawsuit focuses on several issues, including these two:

(1) Access to the inaugural parade route: The government has set up security check points through which all people entering the parade route will be filtered. We believe that the system is established to discriminate against demonstrators who will be denied the access granted to George W. Bush’s financial donors and right-wing ideological supporters. The police agencies have told the media that the check points are being established because of the demonstrators. This clearly demonstrates that the check points are not "neutral" but are "content" based. The check points are not really for security, but to restrain the rights of demonstrators to gain access to the parade route.

(2) "Unfettered discretion" by police agencies: The police agencies have been calculatingly vague about their rules and conduct regarding security, check points, what will be permitted and what will not. Boundaries and parameters keep shifting, as do the explanations given to the public and to demonstrators by police authorities. This policy of deliberate vagueness is an undisguised attempt to give police agencies "unfettered discretion" on January 20 in regard to their behavior towards demonstrators. On its face, this "unfettered discretion" is a violation of the demonstrators right to organize and prepare a peaceful and legal assembly for their demonstration.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court at 2:30 pm on Tuesday, January 16.

We are in an emergency situation. With only days before the scheduled inaugural event and our demonstration, it is necessary for the courts to take urgent action against the "constitutionally invalid" procedures of the police agencies.

While we are confident that we will win a victory in the courts, we know that the power is in the people and that thousands and thousands of people will be coming to Washington at Freedom Plaza and elsewhere. We are determined to demonstrate. We will never surrender our first amendment rights. Our movement will grow stronger and stronger in the coming months and years.

International Action Center

National office: 212.633.6646
39 West 14 Street #206, NY, NY 10011
e-mail: iacenter@iacenter.org

West Coast:
San Francisco 415.821.6545
e-mail: iac@actionsf.org

Los Angeles 213.487.2368
e-mail: npcla@earthlink.net