Volume 74, Number 36 | January 12 - 18, 2005

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

At Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village last Thursday, organizers planned protests against George W. Bush’s second presidential inauguration.

Planning, not to hail the chief, but to rail against him

By Jefferson Siegel

Various local groups are methodically planning a series of protests in Washington and New York around the Bush inauguration. On Thurs., Jan. 6, in Greenwich Village, in a small room at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Sq. S., some 50 organizers and interested participants sat in a circle to discuss events that are in the final planning stages for Jan. 20.

The group, nyccounter-inaugural.org, discussed plans for such various topics as bus transportation to Washington, protest activities in the days leading up to the inauguration and details of overnight housing. Most members asked that they not be identified by name by The Villager and they only allowed one large group photograph to be taken of them.

“We’re basically trying to do some logistical work,” one organizer said, “for activities countering the inauguration. Billionaires For Bush and Code Pink are with us. Different people facilitate.” The organizer said nyccounter-inaugural.org acts as a clearinghouse for all interested groups to coordinate their activities. “This movement is very fluid,” he said. We expect tens of thousands of people. Planned Parenthood, anarchists, socialists, direct-action groups.”

Participants first outlined a meeting agenda for the evening. And just as quickly as it was written on a large sheet of paper hung on a wall, they momentarily deviated from the schedule to allow a brief discussion of the humanitarian crisis in Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Angie Clark said that Aceh suffered the brunt of the tsunami disaster, with Indonesian government estimates of over 100,000 dead, most in and around Aceh. She said that the “military was trying to sell food aid to the people” and suggested to the group that they should collect money to send to relief organizations.

Returning to the agenda, the group first discussed some of the numerous protests and events. One of the more significant actions calls for a funeral procession, intended to signify, among other causes, the death of gay rights and reproductive rights. Already, almost 100 real coffins have been pledged for the march; a call has gone out to coffin-makers for several hundred more. For those who can’t get to Washington, a local group, Theaters Against War (www.thawaction.org/) is working on securing permits for The National Mourning Day Project, a similar funeral procession in New York, planned for Sat., Jan. 15, in Union Sq. Park.

Several other New York protests were revealed, including a march calling for New York City’s secession from the U.S. and a consumer boycott, “Not One Dime,” that calls for a citywide shopping shut down the day of the inauguration.

The Critical Mass bike ride, an environmental protest that has become distinctly political since the Republican National Convention this summer, plans a Washington ride the night before the inauguration. The still-evolving plan calls for riders to gather at Washington’s Union Station at 7 p.m. for their trademark random ride.

Transportation was the next topic of discussion, and options for all means of transport were outlined. New York City’s International Action Center, founded by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, will be chartering buses that will leave from in front of I.A.C.’s headquarters at 39 W. 14th St. at 5 a.m. on Jan. 20 and return the same day.

An I.A.C. representative noted that they have protested at every inauguration since Nixon’s. At past events, they requested protest permits a year in advance. However, this year, a permit has not been forthcoming. They plan to update their efforts at a headquarters meeting on Jan. 11.

Another organizer said New York University will be offering bus transport to students and non-students for $25 roundtrip. Other options mentioned were the various Chinatown independent “dragon bus” lines that leave almost hourly from an area around Canal St. just east of the Bowery.

It was suggested that those who could leave the night before should do so, in order to avoid potential traffic tie-ups. Also, organizers noted that since the inauguration has been designated a national security event, there will be numerous screening checkpoints, further delaying both invited guests and protesters. One veteran of past inaugurations opined the best way to avoid delays was to “follow the fur coats.”

Speaking of fur coats, a well-known local group, Billionaires For Bush, has extensive plans for the inauguration, including an 11 a.m. gathering at the F.D.R. Memorial to announce they are “auctioning off” Social Security and Medicare, and an evening “Re-Coronation Ball” at the appropriately named Platinum nightclub. Further details are at www.billionairesforbush.com.

One unique protest, Turn Your Back On Bush, will involve placing as many protesters as possible along the parade route; when the inaugural procession passes, they will turn their backs in protest. One organizer warned that authorities might try to steer protesters from the inaugural parade to smaller actions elsewhere. Another noted that press restrictions would be more stringent than in past years. This elicited a comment from a member of the local organization Eyewitness Video. The group, working in conjunction with the National Lawyers Guild, tries to have home videotapers at any and all protests. They attend to record potential police misconduct and provide video evidence for civil suits.

As the meeting concluded, one organizer asked how many in attendance planned to go to Washington, either by themselves or as part of a group. About 40 of the 50 people present raised their hands. Then, taking a page from typical meetings everywhere, someone passed a hat to help defray organizing expenses. It quickly filled with dollar bills.

This was the fifth preplanning meeting the groups have held. Three others have already been held at Judson Memorial Church, and one was recently held in Harlem. More are planned in the days leading up to Jan. 20.

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