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The "Counter-Inaugural Coalition" held a "Counter-Inaugural Banquet" outside Union Station while the Presidet-Elect's party partied inside. Ellen Thomas of the Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil was emcee for the event. "It was quite a rush," she remembers, "every word I spoke made the crowd roar. Frankly, it made me understand for a moment what the addiction to politics might be."

Homeless dinner tops 'counter' events


The Baltimore Sun
By Susan Baer
Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Tonight, as the limos pull up to Union Station. one of the three sites for the $1,500-a-plate inaugural dinner, and women in glittery gowns and men in tuxedoes step out, another group of people will be gathering just yards away --Washington's homeless.

The Washington Peace Center, a coalition of more than 70 peace and justice groups, is setting up a soup kitchen-style dinner outsilde Union Station to call attention to the disparity between the high price tag that accompanies this, the most expensive inaugural week ever, and the great number of homeless and hungry people in the country. "It's a horrible waste of money," says Mark Anderson, one of the coordinators of the dinner for the homeless, which is to be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. "We want to focus on the gap, between the rhetoric of the incoming Bush administration and its way of presenting itself. The gap is too glaring to overlook. If George Bush is serious about a kinder, gentler America, he's getting off totally on the wrong foot. We're trying not only to criticize, but to offer another agenda for a truly kinder, gentler America."

The Community for Creatlve Non-Violence. which is assisting in the dinner, yesterday held a news conference to deplore the inaugural's cost, put at upward of $25 million.

For its part, the American Bicentennial Presidential Inaugural Committee, which raised the money through such private means as individual and corporate donations and interest-free loans, says it will donate any leftover food from the Inaugural events to local food banks.

In explaining the record-setting expense of the inaugural, committee officials point to inflation and the fact that there are more free public events than ever before.

"The dollars are not being spent on gold and glitter," said Stephen M. Studdert, executive director for the inaugural committee, "but on substantive events."

Also, he said, "I think we ought to sit back and reflect on, really, what are we celebrating? This is the only country in the world that, regular as clockwork ... has a change of power on a scheduled date by the voice of every man and woman in the country who chooses to speak, and does it peacefully. And, that's worthy of celebration, that's worthy of sending a message, not only to all America, but to the world."

But peace activists aren't the only ones feeling out of the loop, and thus staging Counter-Inaugural activities this week. Along with the 'Liberals Inaugural Ball' sponsored by the Americans for Democratic Action on Friday night in Washington, a Los Angeles group called the 2nd Coming is hosting "The L.A. Inaugural Ball." It's billed as "The Political Party for the Rest of Us."