PASADENA, Calif. – There could be some discord during the Tournament of Roses Parade as demonstrators promise to raise issues during the holiday spectacle that has been going on for more than a century. Human rights advocates plan to protest a float honoring the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and anti-war activists, including "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan, intend to rally for peace.
The theme of this year's New Year's Day parade is "Passport to the World's Celebrations." It will feature 46 floats, 21 marching bands and 18 equestrian units.
Volunteers have busy in Pasadena and nearby areas this past week decorating the floats with buckets of flowers and seeds.
"It's such a great feeling, to see the float on TV and have people say 'You worked on that float, that was so cool, that was so neat.' It makes all the hassle and everything we go through worthwhile," said Moreno Valley resident Linda Priest, 49, assistant crew chief on Honda's "Passport to the Future" float.
The National Weather Service forecast no rain for Tuesday's parade, with highs in the low 70s and not much wind.
This won't be the first Rose parade touched by protest — in 1992, American Indians complained about the naming of a descendant of Christopher Columbus as grand marshal — but most problems have been mechanical.
"Honestly, in the past years, it's really been more about floats breaking down, delaying the parade, than other things, than protests," said Tournament of Roses President CL Keedy.
Yet some fear the protests could develop into an annual pattern that could tarnish the parade's shiny image.
"If controversy like this diminishes the positive impact of the Rose Parade, it would be of concern," Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard said.
Chinese Americans who claim they were victims of political or religious persecution in China are criticizing the $400,000 Beijing Olympics float.
Bogaard said the city cited security considerations in turning down the group's proposal for a demonstration along the parade route involving a large band and several vehicles.
"The tournament views the float as I do, as a celebration of the Olympic Games, not as a subject of criticism of the Chinese," Bogaard said. "It is my hope that as China emerges more and more into the world community it will be inclined to respect all human and civil rights."
Protest organizer John Li, a member of Caltech's chapter of Falun Gong, the spiritual movement outlawed by the Chinese government in 1999, promised his group would be seen if not heard.
"We are going to ask the audience on the road to turn their back when the Asian float arrives, and show banners. We have to send a strong message to say no to human rights abuses in China," Li said.
The float is sanctioned by the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee but is sponsored by the Roundtable of Southern California Chinese-American Organizations and Pasadena-based label maker Avery Dennison Corp. It will feature the upcoming Olympics' five official mascots rotating on a base and decorated with a combination of flowers, including carnations and daisy petals.
Sheehan, the outspoken San Francisco Bay area activist whose son was killed in Iraq, is campaigning for Congress against Rep. Nancy Pelosi and calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. She will join other pro-impeachment and anti-war groups at the parade, according to her sister, Dede Miller.
As many as 1,000 supporters are expected to rally before and after the parade and distribute 20,000 pamphlets while flying 300 banners along the parade route, said Peter Thottam, executive director of the Los Angeles National Impeachment Center.
Police said they were prepared for the protesters and the hundreds of thousands of spectators. As usual, about 1,200 officers from a number of agencies are set to be on hand.
"We've had to ramp up our resources, police personnel, but nothing out of the ordinary," police Commander Paul Gales said.