LOS ANGELES — The Rose Parade has long been a magnet for protesters looking for global attention for their causes and grievances.
Native Americans once threw a balloon filled with red paint onto the parade route to represent the spilling of Indian blood. AIDS activists interrupted the parade by staging a sit-in. One year, a Pasadena mayor wore a "Tournament of Racists" T-shirt to protest what he saw as the parade's lack of ethnic diversity.
But this year, Tournament of Roses organizers and Pasadena police are gearing up for something different as Occupy protesters, fresh from their encampments across the country, plan to converge on Pasadena. Like activists in the past, they hope to widen their impact with an estimated TV audience of 50 million people and about 700,000 people along the route.
Occupy activists have been looking for a high-profile venue since their camps in Manhattan, Los Angeles and elsewhere were removed. A flurry of lawsuits are being filed coast to coast in which protesters are asserting their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly and challenging authorities' mass arrests and use of force to break up tent cities. For visibility, some see the Rose Parade being held Jan. 2 as a logical next step.
"It's Occupy 2.0, and why not start on New Year's Day in Pasadena?" said Daniel Niwander, an activist with Occupy Pasadena.
Pasadena police and Tournament of Roses officials have worked with Occupy forces for several weeks on a plan they hope will prevent disruptions to the parade. Pasadena officials will allow the Occupy group to march the route at the end of the parade, after all the floats have passed. And Occupy plans quite a show.
Protesters intend to march with large banners that decry wealth inequality and will unveil a few colorful "floats" of their own, including a giant people-powered octopus designed to represent the stranglehold that Wall Street has on the political process, said Pete Thottam, an Occupy spokesman.
Others will carry large blow-ups of the Constitution, one with the words "We the People" and the other "We the Corporations," he said. Planned speakers include Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war activist who lost her son in the Iraq war, local Occupy activists and possibly leftist documentarian Michael Moore.
Information from Associated Press was used in this report.