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US agency to allow protests during Trump inauguration


US protesters seeking to rally against the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump will get public sites for demonstrations, a major federal land agency said on Thursday, after being threatened with a lawsuit from civil rights lawyers who accused it of quashing dissent.

Only three of the more than 30 groups seeking to stage rallies have received permits to use National Park Service land do far.

But the agency, which manages all US national parks, said it expected to begin issuing permits for demonstration sites on park land in the coming days.

The announcement came a few hours after the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a civil rights group based in Washington DC, said it would sue if the permits were not issued by Friday.

“We believe that this is a significant victory for free speech. They are doing this under threat of litigation,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the fund’s executive director, said in a telephone interview.

Rally organizers say they need the permits in order to manage peaceful protests and free-speech activities. Up to 900,000 people are expected to pack into the nation’s capital during Trump’s inauguration on January 20.

Many demonstrators plan to protest Trump’s more controversial pledges, including plans to build a wall along the Mexican border and deport illegal immigrants.

About 3,000 police officers and 7,000 National Guard troops from outside Washington will be deployed to help provide security at Trump’s swearing in, according to Chris Geldart, the District of Columbia’s homeland security director.

As Trump prepares to take the presidential oath in two weeks, less than half of Americans are confident in his ability to handle major presidential responsibilities, including dealing with challenging foreign policy matters such as an international crisis or using military force, according to a new Gallup poll.

Americans are far less confident in Trump in handling various presidential responsibilities than they were in his predecessors, the poll found. At least 70 percent of Americans were confident in Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before they took over the White House.

The data also reflects a more polarized America than the one Obama or Bush faced when they came into office. The high political polarization and low trust in government will create a much more challenging presidency for Trump than for those who preceded him in the White House.

The latest Gallup poll is consistent with prior surveys showing Trump having a much lower favorable rating than former incoming presidents.

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