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Inside Politics

'Counter-Inaugural' revving up

Dozens of groups converging on Washington for protests


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Activist Tim Castleman, right, talks to Martin Ellis, of Baltimore, Maryland, with a sign for the "Peace Train."
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The committee handling Bush's Thursday inaugural is focused on pomp and pageantry, but protesters are also preparing.

Dozens of groups, from environmentalists to feminists to antiwar activists, are uniting for what they're calling "J20," or "The Counter-Inaugural."

"No one should underestimate the hatred that the world has for the Bush administration," said Bill Hackwell of ANSWER -- Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.

He explained the rationale behind staging protests by saying, "There are two superpowers in the world. One is the U.S. and the other is world opinion."

ANSWER has brought suit against the National Park Service in a case pending in U.S. District Court, claiming access to the inaugural parade route has been unreasonably restricted.

"Public space of the U.S. belongs to the people of the United States. The U.S. government only acts as a steward in terms of that space. They can't take space and determine that it's privatized," ANSWER attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard insisted.

"They can't take it and make viewpoint-based, content-based determinations and say that if you have a viewpoint that's in opposition to the government, you don't have a right to be here. It's completely illegal; it's unconstitutional."

Inaugural committee spokesman Kevin Sheridan downplayed the suit and any concerns about disruptions during inaugural events.

"The inaugural will celebrate all of our freedoms as Americans, First Amendment rights included," he said.

The U.S. Park Police claim they are ready for all contingencies.

"If there is civil disobedience, and violent civil disobedience, then we are prepared to make arrests and mass arrests if needed." Sgt. Scott Fear told CNN.

Not all the demonstrations planned for Thursday will protest the president.

The D.C. Chapter of Free Republic has secured permits to offer what it is calling safe-haven zones near Pennsylvania Avenue, "to differentiate [it] from the anti-American, leftist protesters who will be scattered along the parade route."


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