Tens of thousands protest Bush’s inauguration

Thousands line Bush’s inaugural parade route, shouting, “Bring the troops home now!”

Photo: Bill Hackwell
How would the anti-war movement respond to George Bush’s second term as president? Would the result of the elections demoralize the hundreds of thousands of people who had taken to the streets over the past three years against war and occupation?

Judging by the outpouring of protest on January 20, wide layers are ready to fight back. Tens of thousands took to the streets around the country and the world in demonstrations against Bush’s inauguration. Their message: Bush’s program of war and racism will be fought every step of the way.

Despite the Bush administration’s extreme efforts to silence dissent, more than 10,000 demonstrators converged in Washington, D.C., at John Marshall Park at 4th Street on Pennsylvania Avenue. Thousands more lined the parade route on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue from 3rd to 7th Streets. Many thousands more were stopped at security checkpoints, so people there held spontaneous demonstrations.

The ANSWER Coalition had battled for more than a year to guarantee that the public, including the anti-war public, could gather all along the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Partnership for Civil Justice and the National Lawyers Guild filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the decision of the National Park Service to essentially privatize Pennsylvania Avenue by giving exclusive use of the parade route to those who were the political and financial supporters of the Bush-Cheney Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Jan. 20 demonstration in San Francisco.

Photo: KamauAmen-Ra
ANSWER was able to secure a permit for a demonstration, including setting up anti-war bleachers.

People braved cold weather and an army of security forces to face off against Bush’s motorcade. As a result, the first thing that Bush saw as he began the parade route was anti-war protesters.

The ANSWER rally featured many speakers, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark; Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney; John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association; Michael Berg, father of Iraq war victim Nicholas Berg; Brenda Stokely, President of District Council 1707 AFSCME; Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition; and ANSWER Coalition Steering Committee members Chuck Kaufman, Nicaragua Network and Macrina Cardenas, Mexico Solidarity Network. The rally was broadcast live and rebroadcast several times on C-SPAN. It was also broadcast on Pacifica Radio and received widespread and extensive media coverage in the New York Times, CNN and elsewhere.

In San Francisco, thousands joined an opening rally at the Civic Center chaired by Richard Becker and Lara Kiswani of the ANSWER Coalition. Speakers included Jess Ghannam of the Free Palestine Alliance, San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson, and Gloria La Riva of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. A march to the Embarcadero on Market Street filled nearly the entire route to capacity while thousands of onlookers enthusiastically expressed their support.

Ten thousand took to the streets in a spirited Jan. 20 demonstration in Los Angeles. The opening rally had poetry readings, live music, including Palestinian Hip-Hop, and speakers such as Muna Coobtee from the Free Palestine Alliance, Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild, Ban Al-Wardi from the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination League, Ron Kovic, Vietnam War Veteran and author of the book “Born on the Fourth of July,” and Ian Thompson from the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. People came from as far as Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

Ten thousand demonstrate in Los Angeles.

Photo: Eric Balaire/www.ericbphoto.com
A day of coordinated actions took place in Seattle. Students at a number of high schools and colleges walked out of class and converged at Seattle Central Community College. The students confronted a group of military recruiters, who eventually had to be escorted by campus police off campus. Later in the day, people marched through downtown Seattle and joined a rally of 2,000 organized by the ANSWER Coalition.

There were also over forty local actions throughout the U.S., including cities such as Atlanta, Ga., New Orleans, La., Albuquerque, N.M.; Phoenix, Ariz., Erie, Pa., Duluth, Minn., and Austin, Texas. Demonstrations also took place in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Italy, Belgium, Germany and elsewhere.

Many of the activists who attended the rallies were planning to build for local actions on March 19-20, the second anniversary of the beginning of the invasion of Iraq.

Peta Lindsay, National Youth and Student Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, summed up the experience of the demonstrations. “We had to battle every step of the way just to have the right to protest Bush’s inauguration,” she said. “Some said it couldn’t be done, or that it wasn’t time for protests, or that we shouldn’t confront Bush directly. But the tens of thousands who came out to protest are the ones who will set the tone for the growing movement that is challenging Bush’s war in Iraq and his racist war against workers in the U.S.”

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