Dec. 21, 2000



Angry, peaceful Bush inauguration protests planned

By Melissa Bland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Protesters planning spirited demonstrations Jan. 20 at the inauguration of President-elect Bush said Thursday that any violence would be the fault of the police.

If there is violence that day it will be because, as we've witnessed in so many demonstrations in the past year, the police decided to engage in violent behavior against demonstrators, International Action Center Co-Director Brian Becker told a news conference.

If you look through the past year, we have not been sending police to the hospital. We have been sent to the hospital, he said.

Washington police have said they are gearing up for a major operation to prevent disruption of the ceremony, which includes the swearing in of the incoming president on the steps of the Capitol and a parade through the streets to the White House.

A variety of mainly left-wing groups intend to protest this month's intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ended weeks of post-election legal wrangling and Democratic challenger Al Gore's hopes of occupying the White House.

They will also be airing charges that many black voters, who overwhelmingly backed Gore, were stopped from voting. Many groups also oppose the Texas governor's commitment to the death penalty. Texas leads the country in the number of executions.

Becker's group, along with the Justice Action Movement and others, said it would demonstrate at various spots along the inaugural route, including sites near the Capitol and White House.

Demonstrators created havoc in the capital in April, closing down many government offices and clashing on several occasions with baton-wielding police who used pepper spray to stop them from blocking meetings of financial leaders from the world's richest nations.

Although the protests next month are supposed to be peaceful, Becker said a lot of emotion would be on display.

What you'll see on Jan. 20 are people attempting to carry out a lawful, legal, orderly, but yet very angry and militant protest, as the Constitution guarantees them. And we will not be stopped. That's our message, Becker said.

The groups said they would not back down if they had any conflict with police.

We are not going to be scared away by police threats. And we are not going to be corralled into an area that they designate, said Adam Eidinger of the Justice Action Movement.

But he echoed Becker's insistence of nonviolence.


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