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Thousands Protest Disney History Theme Park Plans

<i> From Reuters</i>

Thousands of people opposing a theme park to be built near the historic battlegrounds of Virginia marched on Washington on Saturday to raise national awareness of their fight.

Close to 3,000 opponents, including activist Ralph Nader, came from as far away as Florida, California and New York and as close as various counties in Virginia to have their say about Disney’s America.

Disney’s America is the Walt Disney Co.'s plan for a 400-acre theme park re-creating American history it hopes to establish near the National Battlefield Park in Manassas, Va.

Chanting “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Disney’s got to go,” those opposing the plan marched from the Washington Monument to the Capitol, stopping briefly in front of the White House.

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Nader, a consumer advocate and founder of the nonprofit watchdog organization Public Citizen, encouraged the opponents to keep up their fight.

Nader stressed Disney’s “philosophy of becoming its own private government,” and cited the Reedy Creek district Disney created in Orlando, Fla., around Walt Disney World, which has its own tax-assessing powers and private police force.

“If it’s not stopped, Disney will be a model for other corporations,” Nader warned.

Putting their own spin on the disdain, representatives from many other organizations were out in force as well.

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Courtney Gallop-Johnson, founder of the Black History Action Coalition, said Disney has been secretive in its plan to portray slaves in its theme park. Her group is skeptical, she said, about Disney’s plans to “make you feel what it was like to be a slave.”

“No one will ever know the feelings--the absolute agony and despair of these people.”

Local opponent Annie Snyder, chairwoman of the Save the Battlefield Coalition, said: “We hope to make (Disney Chairman Michael D.) Eisner change his mind.”

She fears Disney’s America will create urban sprawl and cause gridlock on roads through the battlefield.

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