Kate Snow: Protesters file suit over inaugural security plans
January 16, 2001
Web posted at: 7:20 p.m. EST (0020 GMT)
With George W. Bush's inauguration only days away, Washington is bracing for demonstrations by thousands critical of the new president. CNN Correspondent Kate Snow has been following the protesters' plans.
Q: This inauguration is expected to draw more protests than in years past. What's going on?
SNOW: What's different about this inauguration, besides the fact that we had an incredibly close election, is that some of these groups have received permits to be much closer to the parade route than they ever have been before. But at the same time, police are tightening security more than they ever have before. They're going to have checkpoints around the perimeter of the public parade area, and they're going to check people before they can get into that perimeter for anything that could be used as a weapon.
Q: One of the protest organizers filed suit today, saying security plans for the inauguration are violating their free speech rights. What are they asking the court to do?
SNOW: They're afraid that frankly, they won't be able to get up close to the parade route -- there isn't enough space for them -- and their message is not going to get out to the president-elect. Another part of it is they feel the rules about what they can bring in and what they can't bring in, about how these checkpoints are going to work -- have been overly vague and they feel it's giving the police unfettered discretion to take away whatever they see fit -- even a bag of fruit, if they think somebody's going to pelt the limousine with tomatoes.
Q: Can this be resolved by Saturday?
SNOW: The judge has the discretion to expedite the proceeding. The court clerk at the US District Court tells me that it's completely possible that they could hear this in the next few days, before Saturday. What the protesters want is for this judge to change the rules before Saturday. They want this judge to act in some way that will open things up a little bit more.
Q: Are the bulk of these demonstrations over how Bush came to power or what they expect him to do once in office?
SNOW: It's both, really. ... They're planning a "shadow inauguration," taking oath to uphold the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It's very much about what happened in Florida. These are civil rights activists very much upset about what happened in Florida and how George W. Bush was elected.
On the other hand, you've got groups like the International Action Center, the Justice Action movement and others who are more focused on Bush's policies. Many of them are anti-death penalty, many of them disagree with his abortion stance and some of his civil rights positions.
Q: How many people are expected to demonstrate, and are we going to see a replay of demonstrations like those in Seattle, Washington and the major-party conventions?
SNOW: Three of the largest groups say they are expect thousands -- anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000. Police aren't really telling us what they expect: Their intelligence is obviously confidential.
All of the groups are planning peaceful protests. This is not like some of the large-scale protests that have happened over the past year and a half. On Saturday, no one I talked to wanted to be arrested. No one I talked to is planning any kind of direct action -- they're not trying to stop Bush from being inaugurated, they're not going to sit down in front of his limousine. They just want to make a point. They want him to see them.