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WASHINGTON--Less than 1000 protestors gathered here yesterday to try to deflate the pomp and circumstance of Ronald Wilson Reagan's entry into office--staging a self-styled "People's Counter-Inaugural."
At a day-long series of rallies and marches, the demonstrators--drawn from groups including the National Anarchists Movement, the Youth International (Yippies) Party and the National Organization of Women (NOW)--protested everything from the return of the draft to the Republican Party's failure to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
While Reagan and his guests ate lunch at the Capitol building and marched in the inaugural parade, about 500 protesters gathered at the Elipse, a park across the street from the White House, to hear speeches against racism, the draft, and U.S. support for the military junta in El Salvador.
The mass rally, the culmination of a day's protest activities involving people from Boston, Birmingham, Ala., Chicago and Greensboro, N.C., was sponsored by the People's Counter-Inaugural Committee, an umbrella organization co-chaired by Michio Kaku '68 that represents more than 150 groups agitating for civil rights, prison reform, women's issues and nuclear safety.
Kaku, a leading member of the anti-nuclear movement, said Reagan's election represents a return to scapegoat politics, which could lead to an unleasning of McCarthyite witchhunting."
"Reagan is promising no inflation but giving racism," said Kaku, who graduated summa cum laude in Physics, and is now a tenured associate professor at the City College of New York.
Among the crowd were several Harvard students and recent alumni, including Dayna L. Cunningham '81, who said she came because the American people cannot afford to be intimidated by the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the New Right."
"The inauguration of Reagan marks a definite change in this country--we came to show we're opposed to it," Aaron A. Estis '80 added.
As Reagan supporters marched down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, hundreds of members of the National Organization for Women (NOW) lined the parade route, chanting "We Want ERA" and waving "ERA Yes" pennants.
NOW spokesmen at the group's headquarters here said yesterday they distributed 10,000 green and white pennants and 5000 ERA buttons but were disappointed because Washington police confiscated the pennants when protesters neared the Capitol building.
District police officers said yesterday they were under orders not to allow the protesters to carry pennants within sight of the television cameras on the Capitol lawn.
Some Yippies briefly attempted to mount a parade of their own, featuring a 15-ft. "Malcolm X Missile" float, but police stopped the small group as they neared the Lincoln Memorial, several blocks from the official parade.
A "Bonzo Look-Alike Contest"--named for Reagan's role as a man who befriends a chimpanzee in the movie "Bedtime for Bonzo"--highlighted the day's protest at Franklin Park.
The undisputed winner of the contest was Yippie Aaron Key, who first achieved notoriety during the Watergate Scandal by throwing cream pies in the faces of G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt and has since creamed several other national Republican figures, including Phyllis Schlafly, an organizer of the stop-ERA movement.
Key dressed in a full-length gorilla suit and carried a model of Reagan's head on a silver platter.
At the rally on the Elipse, protesters chanted "No draft, no war, U.S. out of El Salvador," and "General Haig must go, we won't fight for Texaco." Massachusetts organizations at the rally included the Boston chapter of NOW, the Boston Alliance Against Registration and the Draft, the Progressive Student Coalition, the Coalition for MX Awareness and the Massachusetts Black Caucus.
"A rally like this is an encouraging first step--we're drawing different forces together for the first time," Kaku said.
Some of the protest groups, however, ended up on bad terms.
Steve Conliff, a Yippie from Columbus, Ohio, who was acquitted in 1977 of an assault charge after he threw a pie in the face of Ohio Gov. James Rhodes, said yesterday, "It was a shame" that all the protest groups could not get along together because "we've got our hands full with the police as it is."
"Eight of the meanest-looking D.C. motorcycle cops have been escorting us everywhere we go," he said, adding, "We've been playing tag with these same guys for so many years we practically know them by name. I even recognize the cop who beat the hell out of me at Nixon's inaugural."
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