International Action Center Press Release
January 9, 2001
Major victory achieved for Jan. 20 counter-inaugural protest
Police grant permits for demonstrations along the inaugural route
Check out new C-SPAN coverage of January 20 organizing. C-SPAN will be broadcasting a press conference that took place today in Washington DC. Press conference participants are Brian Becker and Larry Holmes representing the International Action Center, and Mara Verheyden-Hilliar and Carl Messineo representing the Partnership for Civil Justice. See the C-SPAN web site for schedule.] Broadcast Wed. Jan. 10 at noon. See www.Washington Post.com , Wed. Jan 10
Today, demonstration organizers have scored an important victory. We have forced the police to reverse their position—which they announced earlier to the media—that no permits have been granted. We have always asserted that we had the permits in accordance with existing DC law and regulations.
Even though we submitted our permit applications more than two months ago, we had never heard officially from the responsible police agencies. We believe the police were consciously dragging their feet to try to create a climate of confusion, uncertainty and fear so as to dissuade the general public from attending the demonstration.
Our attorneys, the Partnership for Civil Justice, sent a detailed letter on January 4 to the Metro Police Chief in DC, the Chief of the Capitol Police, the Interior Department, and the Chief of Police for the National Parks Service asserting our right to these permits and asking for clarification and information on adetailed list of questions regarding permits, access to demonstration sites, police plans regarding demonstrations and public access to the inaugural route and the area around the inaugural route.
Today in a meeting held at the National Parks Service but including other police agencies, the various police agencies acknowledged that the IAC does in fact hold a permit for a Counter-Inaugural demonstration at Freedom Plaza (14th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue NW), the Justice Department (10th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. NW) and at McPherson Square (15th St. and I NW).
THIS REVERSAL BY THE POLICE IS A MAJOR VICTORY for the IAC, other demonstration organizers and all of those who want to demonstrate against racist disenfranchisement, the death penalty, in support of a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal and other issues in contrast with the right-wing policies of the incoming Bush administration.
This victory was a consequence of public pressure, political mobilization and legal efforts. Although this is a significant victory, there are other outstanding issues that remain to be clarified, and if the various police agencies are not forthcoming with an adequate response guaranteeing the rights of the public to express opinions and demonstrate against George Bush’s polices, the lawyers for the IAC are prepared to take legal action.
The most important outstanding issue concerns the access of demonstrators and the public to the inaugural route and even to the permitted sites that the IAC holds for demonstrations and rallies. The metropolitan police force, in tandem with the secret service, has announced that they are establishing check points that could affect the flow of people into these areas. At the meeting today with the police agencies, neither the National Parks Service nor the Metro Police would tell demonstration organizers where the check points will be established, when they will be established, whether identification would be required to pass through the check points, whether people would be frisked, whether materials would be subject to confiscation, whether people will have to pass through a metal detector, and other details.
Given the conduct of the police in the Washington DC area in the past year—including arrests of demonstrators in mass in an act of preventive detention (678 arrested at an IAC-sponsored demonstration on April 15, 2000), the illegal raid of the convergence center for the anti-IMF protesters in Washington DC (April 15, 2000), the systematic demonizing of demonstrators in the media by police officials and the calculated effort to create a climate of fear for those attending the demonstration—the issue of access to the demonstration sites and police conduct is vital to the upholding of the First Amendment rights of the demonstrators.
The second outstanding issue has to do with the disparate treatment accorded the applicants who are seeking to protest and the presidential inaugural committee. The latter has been accorded bleachers seating 42,000-plus people along Pennsylvania Avenue. It is entirely in the discretion of the inaugural committee as to who is entitled to tickets for those bleachers.
The effect is that Pennsylvania Avenue—a public thoroughfare—and the inaugural parade—a public event—have been effectively privatized, giving George W. Bush’s corporate and banking donors access to a constitutionally-mandated event while depriving equal access to those who oppose the death penalty and Bush’s right-wing policies.
In summary, the January 20 organizers have secured a significant victory.
All those who want to come and demonstrate on January 20 should feel that they can come and participate in a legal, orderly and disciplined protest. This should give further impetus in Washington DC and in cities around the country.
We know of more than 40 organizing centers where buses and car caravans are being organized to bring protesters to Washington DC. At the same time, important outstanding issues must be clarified to the satisfaction of the demonstrators in accordance with the constitutional guarantees of free speech or further legal action will be taken.
Most important, our message to all January 20 mobilizing centers is organize, organize, organize. January 20 will be remembered as a historic next step in the construction of a new movement for social justice in the United States.
International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
fax: 212 633-2889
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