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New dissent tactics will mark Bush inaugural

While Republicans in Washington will be busy hanging bunting and straightening the final touches on the president's second inauguration Thursday, Jesse Gordon of Cambridge will be taking another, less festive action.

Gordon will turn the pockets on his pants inside out. No, the 44-year-old Internet marketing manager for a chemistry company is not flat broke. Nor is he attempting to advance a new hobo chic.

Gordon will be taking part in what he and other activists hope will be a day of protests across the nation designed to dampen the spirit of the quadrennial ritual and register a broad, if quiet, displeasure with the man about to be sworn in for a second term.

"The real goal is not so much to force a change in policy right now," said Gordon, who named the lack of debate about White House policy in Iraq as his number one grievance. "We need an open debate."

Gordon's protest is part of an economic boycott, called Not One Damn Dime, that will attempt to enlist thousands of like-minded citizens from Massachusetts and beyond to halt all purchases on inauguration day.

Gordon says he has 10,000 people signed up through the group's website who have agreed to not spend any money Thursday. He hopes they'll all spend the day with their pockets turned out to make the protest visible, Gordon said.

"It's a way of making a statement on that day," said Monica Boyce, 38, a scientist from the Central Massachusetts town of Wales, who has agreed to move her Thursday shopping to another day. "Our policy in Iraq is really tied to all this. It is really driven by big business interests and certainly not by weapons of mass destruction."

Boyce said she will probably drive to Wal-Mart and her local gas station to explain her rationale to the employees there -- that she feels the Bush administration counts Americans as consumers more than people.

"It's my own small way in rural Massachusetts to stay involved," Boyce said. "I think most people realize they don't want the economy to shut down, they just want people to recognize there are a considerable number of people who are unhappy with the way things have gone on [under Bush]."

Of course, not everyone in this blue state will be bypassing the local grocery store and gas station. Bush won 37 percent of the vote here, and voters who support the president will be relishing the inauguration in ways large and small. Republicans are organizing house parties and galas across Massachusetts.

"I'll be glued to the television," said Marion McMullen, 74, a retired deli manager from New Bedford, who plans to celebrate quietly at home. "We're all quite thrilled about it and of course we're extra thrilled because Bush won. I've got the calendar marked off -- nothing else to do, no appointments -- just going to watch it."

Others will take their protests straight to Washington. Dan Nolan, an organizer with Turn your Back on Bush, a protest group, says he has enlisted several hundred New Englanders to line the inaugural parade route and turn their backs on the presidential motorcade as it rolls down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Nolan, 31, a Cambridge artist and computer specialist, said the organizers have instructed participants to refrain from wearing pins or carrying signs. Nolan also said he has asked protesters to keep the action peaceful. He hopes thousands will be spread out along the route for what he calls "a silent and nonviolent" protest.

"We feel Bush has turned his back on the world and us as a nation," Nolan said. If the protesters, from the economic boycotters to the back-turners, share one philosophy, it appears to be a desire to change tactics from the massive, sign-waving protests that clogged city streets in the run-up to the Iraq war. Bush, in a statement that outraged many protesters, dismissed one of those marches -- which attracted an estimated 10 million people worldwide in February 2003 -- as the pleadings of a "focus group."

Gordon and Nolan both said they wanted to avoid that type of easy dismissal by the White House. "We live in the age of protest pens," Nolan said. "So we felt creativity was incredibly important these days -- and we wanted to create sort of a minimalist action with not a minimal impact."

Some local Republicans say the protests threaten to divide an already divided electorate at what could potentially be a moment of unity. "In America, the majority rules and we move on and we support whoever wins," said Harry Berkowitz, 56, a GOP activist from Northbridge. "In Massachusetts, we have overwhelming wins by Democrats, but you don't see Republicans getting out there protesting that fact."

And as some take to the streets, turn their pockets inside out, cheer and jeer, others will pay little attention to all the pomp and circumstance. Berkowitz, for one, said he will be far away from the festivities, toiling at his job as a salesman for a convenience store supplier. "I'll be going to work that day," Berkowitz said, "like a good Republican, I'll be working."

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