George W. Bush’s inauguration went less smoothly than the GOP would have liked, as thousands of activists filled the streets of Washington to protest Bush’s disputed election “victory.”


chapters from as far away as Detroit dispatched busloads of activists for a demonstration that surrounded the Supreme Court building. Protests organized by the

National Organization for Women

, the

National Action Network

and other groups made dissent the order of the day, though a huge police presence blocked several marches and prevented the use of giant puppets and other tools of post-Seattle protest. The

Kensington Welfare Rights Union

built a tent city, “Bushville USA,” on the lawn of the Health and Human Services Department, only to see it dismantled within minutes and its 200 occupants removed by security officials.

Alexis Baden-Meyer

, an organizer of the DC-based

Arts in Action Working Group

, said police restrictions violated freedom of expression. But the protests were still heard–and seen. The most high-profile challenge came along the inaugural parade route, where protesters took over bleachers reserved for Bush supporters and jeered “Jail to the Thief” as the Bush motorcade raced by…. Dozens of protests occurred elsewhere on January 20; NAACP president

Kweisi Mfume

told 1,000 people at an electoral reform rally in Tallahassee, “While the eyes of the nation are on Washington and on this inauguration, we’ve come back to Florida to say that we remember and we must not ever forget.”


On the day before the inaugural, voting rights activists from across the country gathered in Washington to plot a legislative and political crusade to reform the political system. “The Bush people, the Republicans, the Supreme Court–they do not yet fully understand the mistake they made when they decided to steal the election,” declared Representative

Cynthia McKinney

of Georgia. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Senator

Paul Wellstone

and Representatives

Dennis Kucinich


Bernie Sanders


Jan Schakowsky


Barbara Lee


Eleanor Holmes Norton

and McKinney, joined academics and activists for seminars, workshops and discussions organized by the

Institute for Policy Studies

, the

Progressive Challenge

network, the

Nation Institute

and the

Center for Voting and Democracy

. The forum was the first of several planned to link grassroots activists with members of the 107th Congress who are pushing reform legislation on issues ranging from the healthcare crisis to the wealth gap. McKinney said the Florida election dispute and anticipated fights over Congressional redistricting created a rare opening for reform. “In 1965, civil rights activism that seemed undoable suddenly became doable after Bloody Sunday,” she said. “After Florida 2000, voting reforms that seemed undoable suddenly seem doable. Voting rights is an issue–not just a civil rights issue, but an American issue.”


The grilling of Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft by Senators Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings benefited substantially from information provided by one of the nation’s most ambitious grassroots organizations,

Missouri Pro-Vote

, a coalition of labor, pro-choice, gay and lesbian, and community activist groups. Soon after Ashcroft’s nomination was announced, Pro-Vote officials began working with


Democracy Now!

radio program, the

Institute for Public Accuracy



–the national network of state-based progressive groups with which Pro-Vote is affiliated–to spread the word about Ashcroft’s extremist views and his record of racial insensitivity. Much of the information had been gathered as part of a five-year monitoring project of the Pro-Vote-linked

Missouri Citizen Education Fund

. Pro-Vote’s work to expand African-American voter registration in St. Louis last year–when Ashcroft was narrowly defeated for re-election to the Senate–was honored by the

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

as part of that city’s

Martin Luther King Day



“You can’t always get what you want,” crooned activist-musician

Doug Hartnett

, as his band the


ripped into the Rolling Stones classic and a set of equally appropriate tunes for dissenters on the first night of the George W. Bush Administration. Rocking a crowd of more than 800 at the

Americans for Democratic Action

Counter-Inaugural Gala, Hartnett, who works by day as a lawyer for the whistleblowing

Government Accountability Project

, and the Oxymorons had no trouble filling the dance floor at Washington’s Mayflower hotel with a multigenerational crowd that answered the call to “party liberally.” Grand Old Partyers arriving to celebrate in another wing of the hotel did double takes when they encountered revelers like Baltimore’s Sarah McClintock, whose green brocade gown was accented with gold glitter slogans that read, “Reject the Republicans” and “Jail to the Thief.” “I wanted to make a fashion statement that no one would misinterpret,” announced a grinning McClintock.

John Nichols’s e-mail is