WASHINGTON – It’s just a cold, tile floor and students will have to supply their own blankets or sleeping bags. But it has a shower and restrooms. And it’s walking distance to a subway link to Saturday’s inaugural events.
Protest organizers hope that will be enough for as many as 50 students who might camp out Friday at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in College Park, one of two Maryland churches that has opened its doors to the inaugural demonstrators descending on Washington.
Organizers with the Justice Action Movement have been referring people to moderately priced hotels and inns in the region. They also have been working with churches like St. Andrews and the Hyattsville Mennonite Church to line up shelter.
Organizers rented the hall at St. Andrews to house any out-of-town college students, said office manager and church member Brenda Jones. The church hall, across from the University of Maryland campus, is near the College Park Metro stop.
Hyattsville Mennonite Church members are offering space in their homes to young people, including Quaker and Mennonite students from the Midwest, said Melvin Schmidt, the church’s pastor.
“I’m having a very, very good response,” said Schmidt, who has been working the phones, lining up beds. “People want to open up their homes and help.”
Schmidt said he understands why so many people are compelled to protest the inauguration. He said he’s outraged by all the tight security and checkpoints, which he suspects is more about discouraging protest than protecting President-elect George W. Bush.
“What is this Nazi Germany or what? This is not the kind of celebration an inauguration should be,” he said.
Still, Schmidt said he wouldn’t be joining the protesters himself.
“I don’t feel like going down there and raising a ruckus,” Schmidt said. “What do you do, yell at his limousine when it passes by?”