Activist organizer John Li, a member of Caltech’s chapter of Falun Gong, a 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 being sanctioned by the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee, but 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 combo of flowers, including carnations and daisy petals. Then there is Sheehan, an outspoken San Francisco Bay Area activist whose campaign for Congress includes calls for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, will join other pro-impeachment and anti-war groups such as the Los Angeles National Impeachment Center at the parade, according to Dede Miller, Sheehan’s sister. 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 center. Pasadena police said they are prepared for the protesters and the hundreds of thousands of other spectators. As usual, about 1,200 officers from a number of agencies were set to be on hand, checking side streets and RVs. “We’ve had to ramp up our resources, police personnel, but nothing out of the ordinary,” police Commander Paul Gales said. This year’s parade will feature 46 floats, 21 marching bands and 18 equestrian units, and will be followed by the 94th Rose Bowl football game. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse will serve as grand marshal and toss the coin before the game. No. 13 Illinois will play No. 6 Southern California in its first Rose Bowl in 24 years. Parade highlights include the city of Anaheim’s float, dubbed “The World’s Celebration Destination!,” with twisting roads featuring vehicles with moving wheels, and Western Asset’s four-part float of circus train cars, including one car showcasing a lion with fur made out of wheat. Still, organizers remain concerned about the potential disruptions to this year’s feel-good event. The parade has overcome controversy in the past. In 1992, a little diplomacy managed to quell a touchy situation when American Indians had complained over the naming of a descendant of Christopher Columbus as grand marshal. “There was an adjustment made on the part of the tournament where they named a co-grand marshal, former Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell,” an American Indian, said Bogaard. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonThis season’s parade – with the theme “Passport to the World’s Celebrations” – promises to be more vociferous than usual. Some officials fear it might prompt an annual pattern of protest 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,” said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard. Expected to protest are Chinese-Americans who claim they were victims of political or religious persecution in China, criticizing the $400,000 Beijing Olympics float Bogaard said the activists were given several options for an alternate event that were rejected. Instead, they pushed for a demonstration along the parade route involving a large band and several vehicles. The city turned that proposal down, citing security constraints. “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.” For well over a century, the Rose Parade has helped the nation usher in the new year with its nearly endless procession of flower-covered floats, marching bands and smiling folks on horseback – all under typically sunny skies. This new year, however, there could be some rancor on the route as demonstrators try to steal some of the sun-splashed spectacle. 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 annual event hasn’t been completely immune from controversy in the past, though it’s usually been more mechanical than political. “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.