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Rose Parade to kick off with pageantry and protest

Rose Parade to kick off with pageantry and protest

January 2nd, 2012 by CHRISTINA HOAG, Associated Press in News

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Volunteers are putting the finishing touches on flower-festooned floats, musicians are polishing instruments and horse handlers are prepping their charges as they gear up for Monday's annual Rose Parade.

But this year, hundreds of extra police officers from numerous law enforcement agencies are also moving into place due to the expected demonstration by anti-Wall Street protesters who will be falling in at the end of the procession with their own march.

"We take any potential issue seriously," said Pasadena police Lt. Phlunte' Riddle.

Police, parade and city officials have held numerous meetings with the organizers of Occupy the Rose Parade to ensure that protesters keep to the end of the two-hour long procession, where spectators and other groups who want to make political statements regularly tag along.

Several hundred activists are expected to turn out to carry a 70-foot wide octopus puppet that symbolizes the far-reaching influence of corporations, a giant U.S. Constitution, a "Goldie Sachs" wheel of fortune, as well as banners, placards and drums.

Activists plan to remain peaceful, but will exercise their first amendment right to free expression, said Pete Thottam, Occupy the Rose Parade organizer.

Heightened security is nothing new to the parade, which is taking place on Jan. 2 this year because New Year's Day falls on a Sunday.

Police also stepped up measures after 9/11 and the Y2K threat, and have regularly dealt with protests through the years ranging from anti-Vietnam war demonstrators to Native Americans incensed at the choice of a descendant of Christopher Columbus as grand marshal.

Some 700,000 spectators, some of whom camped out in sleeping bags overnight to secure a prime viewing spot, are expected to line the 5.5-mile route through the city of Pasadena. Another 40 million people will view lead the procession of 44 floats, 16 marching bands and 22 equestrian troupes on U.S. television.

Among others, this year's parade will feature Iraq war veteran J.R. Martinez as grand marshal, the children and grandchildren of Roy Rogers on a float commemorating cowboys, and the parents of Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl killed in the mass shooting that injured U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords last year, on the Donate Life float honoring organ donors. The Greens donated their daughter's corneas.

This parade will also be the first in 58 years without the famed Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale horses after the company withdrew in a change of marketing strategy.