Disaffected voters can protest President Bush's second inauguration Thursday from the comfort of their own homes. Anger at Bush has inspired national calls to fast, pray, skip work, buy nothing and wear black.
Thousands of unhappy Americans are also expected to converge in Washington D.C., braving unprecedented security to protest and party. There's a tactic for every taste, from traditional rallies and marches to quieter plans to "turn your back on Bush" along the Inaugural Parade route.
The Florida recount energized protesters at Bush's 2001 inauguration. The primary motivator this time is the war in Iraq. Sgt. Scott Fear of the U.S. Park Police said authorities expect an activity level "very similar to last time." He said two of six protest permits went to groups supportive of Bush, the rest to opponents.
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), is putting up bleachers in a park along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route. They'll be filled with opponents of the Iraq war, including veterans, elected officials, religious leaders and families that have lost relatives in Iraq.
Brian Becker, national coordinator of the protest, says 10,000 people will fit in the park and it is the first time the anti-war movement has had its own bleachers. But he calls that only "a partial victory," contending inaugural organizers have severely limited public access along the rest of the parade route. ANSWER filed a court challenge to the restrictions Friday.
Leaders of TurnyourbackonBush.org also are concerned about limited space for public viewing. National organizer Jet Heiko says the group expects thousands of people from 41 states to travel here for a silent protest along the parade route. They have been told to leave anti-Bush buttons, banners and signs at home. They will signal their opposition to Bush's policies by turning their backs as his motorcade passes.
The idea is to break through what they see as Bush's isolation from divergent views. Participants have been advised to stay calm and silent even if provoked by Bush supporters.
Unlike most protests, Heiko says, "there's no buffer" between participants and those who disagree with them. "This is a courageous action. It's a hard action," he says. "It's hard to restrain yourself when you're feeling angry."
Such restraint does not appeal to all. "We ourselves think that there should be loud, visible, boisterous protests that are equal to what the gravity of the situation is in Iraq," says Becker of ANSWER.
The day promises to be a series of contrasts between gentility and abandon. Anarchist Resistance Call to Action says it plans to "bring anarchy to the streets of DC" during Bush's "coronation." Bicyclists plan to gather at Union Station, near the Capitol, for a "counter-inaugural critical mass bike ride" to protest sites around town. The D.C. Anti-War Network (DAWN) is calling for "non-violent civil disobedience die-ins to draw attention to the dead at the hands of the Bush administration."
At the Jefferson Memorial, ReDefeatBush is sponsoring a question-and-answer session on democracy featuring Thomas Jefferson and Alexis de Tocqueville impersonators. At the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, the satirical cabaret group Billionaires for Bush ("activists for the corporate elite") will auction off Social Security, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and "other public properties that need to be corporatized."
As Republican revelers crowd Inaugural Balls, the loyal opposition won't be bereft. For the serious-minded, there's a screening of a new documentary on civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who organized the 1963 March on Washington. There's also a candlelight vigil sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. It's part of "Eyes Wide Open," a traveling exhibit that uses boots, shoes and a 24-foot wall of names to symbolize troops and civilians killed in Iraq.
For the less earnest, counterinaugural balls run the gamut from the "Not my president!" punk rock ball to the Billionaires for Bush "Re-Coronation" ball ("dress to oppress"). A political action committee using its ball as a fundraiser advertises itself as "an exciting safe haven" for Democrats. ReDefeatBush, soon to become left.org, promises a "huge dinner buffet" and free drinks.