Protesters Get Prime Spot for Inauguration

The anti-war group A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition is planning to erect its own bleachers in the space, an open plaza on Pennsylvania Ave., just a few blocks from the Capitol building, said Brian Becker, national coordinator for the group. The bleachers could seat up to 1,000 people and the park service estimates up to 10,000 could fill the space standing shoulder to shoulder.

"I don't think it's ever happened in history that the anti-war movement has ever been able to have this kind of setup," Becker said.

Park service spokesman Bill Line said the agency has offered the space in John Marshall Plaza to the group but is still waiting for them to submit written confirmation. Becker said A.N.S.W.E.R. plans to submit the paperwork as soon as they can work out details about where to set up the bleachers.

The presidential motorcade carrying Bush will pass directly in front of the protesters' bleachers, which will be across the street from other bleachers set up by the official inaugural committee. The plaza, between the federal courthouse and the Canadian embassy, runs about 240 feet along the historic street that stretches from the Capitol to the White House.

The parade gets under way at 2 p.m. EST on Jan. 20 after Bush's swearing-in at the Capitol and a celebratory luncheon.

Becker said he considers the agreement a "partial victory" but still inadequate because the general public, including many who are opposed to the war in Iraq, will not be able to move into other areas along the parade route as they have in the past.

The park service has also issued A.N.S.W.E.R. permits for protesters to stand in nine other locations along Pennsylvania Ave., but Becker said most are "tiny spaces" behind bleachers or in fenced-in areas more than 100 feet from the parade route.

"Those are meaningless areas, we can't use them," Becker said.

The inaugural committee is staying out of the fray, committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said. "The inauguration is a celebration of our country's greatest ideals, including freedom of speech," Schmitt said.

The Secret Service is allowing protesters to carry signs, but they are prohibiting them from being affixed to poles or sticks for security reasons, Becker said.

The A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition plans to host military families with members in Iraq or whose children have been killed there, as well as veterans and anti-war activists from around the country.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen other groups opposing Bush held a news conference Wednesday to highlight the many marches, rallies and acts of civil disobedience set to take place on inauguration day.

A group called "Turn Your Back on Bush" is asking thousands of activists to line the parade route and turn their backs on the president as his motorcade passes. In a separate march, members of the D.C. Anti-War Network will carry 1,000 coffins draped in black to call attention to soldiers dying in Iraq, then stage a "die-in" at Lafayette Park near the White House, spokesman Jim Macdonald said.


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