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Rich and Poor Eat Inaugural Dinners

January 19, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The homeless lined up for a soup-kitchen meal Wednesday outside Union Station, where wealthy Republicans gathered for a $1,500-a-plate feast of Maryland crab and roast loin of pork with George Bush and Dan Quayle.

Three hours before the start of the candlelight inaugural dinner, several hundred street people enjoyed a ″counter Inaugural banquet″ of hot chili and rice, tortilla chips, salad and apple cider on the plaza in front of Union Station.

While they ate off of paper plates, the homeless listened to guitar players and watched a pro-abortion street theater featuring a man in tennis shoes wearing a Bush mask and a sign reading, ″I oppose abortion″ hanging around his neck.

Protesters organized by a group called, ″The Counter-Inaugural Coalition for a Peoples’ Agenda,″ carried placards reading, ″Food, Not Bombs,″ ″George Knew″ and ″The Skies Are for Stars, Not War.″ Another sign under a huge peace symbol read, ″Now Appearing In a Four-Year Show, Son of Reaganstein, co-starring Big Bird.″

U.S. Park Police said the demonstrators were being dispersed when the inaugural dinner in the newly-refurbished station began in mid-evening.

The president-elect and his vice president, Quayle, were guests of honor at the lavish dinner attended by more than 2,500 Republican stalwarts and fat-cat contributors. The black-tie crowd was so large the dinner was held at Union Station and the nearby Pension Building and Corcoran Gallery of Art.

For $1,500 ticket, each invited guest was to hear brief remarks by Bush and Quayle at the dinner sites and feast on a four-course dinner.

Outside on the Plaza, Park Police Sgt. Robert Kass banished a half dozen conservative Republican counter-demonstrators for lack of a permit.

The leader of the group, Eugene Delgaudio, 34, executive director of the private, ultra-conservative activists group known as ″Public Advocate,″ said he wanted to show ″there’s a better way than openly, political negativism.″ He said his demonstrators were to welcome the black-tie dinner guests with American flags and signs reading, ″Welcome Non-Liberals.″

Several homeless people paused between spoonfuls of chili to say that the $2.25 million in proceeds from the inaugural dinners should be spent to provide food, additional shelters, job training and subsidized public transportation for Washington’s street people.

Referring to the inaugural diners, Roosevelt Carrington, a 30-year-old homeless person, said, ″I think maybe they should eat the same thing we’re having so they’ll know what it’s like.″

Said Ronnie Thompson, 38: ″They done robbed most of it from us.″ He said the inaugural dinner proceeds should be used for the homeless because ″a lot of them have given up.″

More than 1,000 people were served at the counter-inaugural dinner at Union Station.

As guests began arriving shortly before 7 p.m., several hundred of the people at the counter-inaugural banquet began shouting, ″What about the homeless″ and ″50,000 dead from AIDS. Where was George?″

Although the Park Police allowed the demonstration to spread closer to the train depot than the demonstrators’ permit allowed, the protestors remained 100 yards from the entrance where the invited guests were emerging from their cars and were barely audible from that distance.

At about 7:30 p.m., one half hour before the Union Station banquet would get officially underway, the Park Police received reinforcement and barricades which were set up in front of the demonstrators.

Park Police Sgt. G. F. Wallace, asked whether the barricades had been planned in advance, said, ″I’m not in on these decisions, but I imagine it was spontaneous because of the crowd’s activity...we can’t have the police spread out or people can sneak through. We should have had them up there before.″

There was no indication that any of the invited guests to the Union Station dinner were even aware of the demonstration. None of them came over to see what is going on.

At the majestic Corcoran Gallery of Art, dinner guests who also paid $1,500 each were serenaded up a royal blue carpeted stairway by violins playing, ″This Could Be The Start of Something Big.″

Elegantly attired guests wandered through art displays ranging from modern neon art to traditional American pieces. The gallery was hung with blue bunting with white stars and large arrangements of red roses decorated the corridors.

Among the guests were Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and Bush’s son, Marvin, and his wife, Margaret. The younger Bush said he was having fun, but mostly waiting for Friday’s swearing in of his father.

″The rest will be fun,″ he said, adding, however, ″the one we will all be looking forward to will be Friday - an incredibly proud moment for all of us.″

His wife, who wore a fitted, strapless black gown with a brocade bodice, said she had never seen George and Barbara Bush so excited as they have been with the inauguration approaching. ″They’re like two kids,″ she said.

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