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Parade Route Never Reached Capacity

Malcolm Wiley, a Secret Service spokesman, said that the parade route never filled to capacity, so it was not shut down, as officials had forecast they might do.

He said one of the 13 checkpoints closed because the crowd had filled that area, but the rest remained open all day.

-- Mary Beth Sheridan

By Washington Post Editors  |  January 20, 2009; 4:30 PM ET  | Category:  Crowds
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Purple tickets????

Posted by: bs2004 | January 20, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the parade route never filled up because we were all stuck outside of the security checkpoints. At 7th and D Streets they had two gates and four metal detectors for what was easily ten thousand people. I stood in line for six hours before getting through. Really sad that so many people missed a chance at witnessing history because of poor planning and no communication. Did they not believe the reports that millions of people were coming to town?

Posted by: bigthursday | January 20, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

this is simply a lie - I and dozens of other ticket holders were told to go to Const. and 12 - but the 20 or so law enforcement types told us too bad - we were definitely turned away. I am not sure how the WP can keep taking the SS's word for everything - just because they say something doesn't make it true

Posted by: junk101 | January 20, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Another voice to say the Secret Service spokesman is disconnected from the reality on the ground.

We came across several closed checkpoints and the only one that was open was so completely overloaded as to be unusable. And there was absolutely no attempt at crowd control.

The action of security personnel, at least on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue is an embarrassment to the country and to the city.

Posted by: nashpaul | January 20, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it obvious? The Secret Service hates freedom!

They need to be de-funded and SHUT DOWN.

The empty seats in the bleachers along Pennsylvania Avenue are a testament to blundering and putting the President in a bubble which shuts out almost everything, including reality!

Posted by: bs2004 | January 20, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

At about 10:00 am, a message was displayed on all the jumbo-trons which said, "The parade route is now filled to capacity and closed." In fact, here's a picture of the message: http://www.flickr.com/photos/15020568@N02/3213838002/

How do you explain that?

Posted by: ear0112 | January 20, 2009 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Facebook group forming at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=47452382217

Posted by: nashpaul | January 20, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

The parade route never filled up because security officials prematurely blocked off entry points, and allowed a substantially smaller crowd than the advertised 300,000-350,000 inside the perimeter. I'd guess that maybe 50,000-100,000 people watched the parade from the street. The north-of-Penn access points all had lines of people trying to get into them for standing areas who were prevented from entering, and only some of the entry points were allowing ticket holders through when I went by them at around 1pm. And the south-of-Penn access points were impossible to reach after security officials blocked off Constitution Ave hours before the parade, preventing those who had bleacher seats from crossing the street to get to their designated south-of-Penn entry points.

It was a great day but the security planning was abysmal and needs to be substantially reviewed.

Posted by: silspr77 | January 20, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

I knew we were being given misinformation by Metro Police. We stood at 7th and D from 6:30 to 11 a.m. because MPD told us that we would need to wait two hours before we could progress to the Secret Service checkpoint we could actually see down the street. During those two hours, MPD gradually began letting small groups of people proceed down to the fence across 7th. There were a number of people gathered in front of that fence but were not proceeding through anything as the fence went completely across the street. We found out in the bathroom at Teaism that the generator at that checkpoint was malfunctioning, rendering the wands useless and because patting down people was time-consuming, the gate was shut. I'm wondering who the heck got in because we were in position well before the anticipated shut down time of 10 a.m. AND then I read that the 7th checkpoint was re-opened at noon? For shame, security officials. For shame. Many people flews thousands of miles to witness this and were given bad information from people in uniform we're supposed to trust. Pres. Obama should hear about that.

Posted by: WAW5058 | January 21, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

My family had invitations to view the parade from a building overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue at 7th Street. We live in Silver Spring, but stayed downtown overnight so that we could get to the parade checkpoint early.

We decided to go to the nearest parade entry point, 12th and E, and we arrived at about 6:30 am. The crowd quickly grew to a prodigious size. Chatting with those around us, it became clear that there were many who thought they were lining up for entrance to the Mall. We explained to as many people as we could that the line was for the parade area. I'm sure that there were many hundreds more who waited for hours in the parade security line only to find that they were in the wrong area. There were no signs and no announcements.

Hours later we cleared security and entered the parade zone, only to find ourselves in a sort of cage, unable to walk to the building to which we were invited. Had there been a notice of some sort, we would have gone directly to the checkpoint closest to our party: 7th and D. We noticed many, many other people leaving the parade area after securing entry. These were probably the folks who thought they were waiting for Mall access.

By the time we got to 7th and D, the checkpoint was closed. In fact, 7th street was closed to pedestrian traffic below F Street. Again, there were no announcements or signs as people continued to stream down 7th street toward the Mall.

We decided to watch the swearing-in on television in my husband's office. As we walked up 14th Street, I asked the National Guardsmen stationed on every corner if they were authorized to direct pedestrians toward Mall access points. After they said "yes," I suggested that they do so.

A memorable day, to be sure. But it could have been so much better with appropriate signage and announcements. I cannot tell you the number of times I wished I had a bullhorn so that I could do the relatively simple job of letting people know which line they were on.

Posted by: nhirshbein1 | January 21, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Hello, My daughter was in the parade, we drove for about 9 hours to reach it. We voted for Obama, but we are not Democrats or Republicans, and we are not celebrities or anyone else of note, we just work everyday and raise a family, we are just Americans. I read all the blogs, and announcements, and planned a route to the parade. I have had some experience in law enforcement and was concerned with the delays at the check points, but thought someone would have considered that. Sadly my family waited with many other families outside of the 12th st. checkpoint from 7:30am until 1:30pm and had to give up due to my son shaking uncontrollably. There was no crowd control at all, I took photos of it, it was a dismal performance. The check point was averaging about 10 security checks every 10 - 15 minutes. The lone police officer that made two announcements had a bullhorn and stood in one corner stating something that no one outside of 20 feet from him could hear, he did not make any attempt to move about the crowd and repeat his message. No line barricades were in place, no armed foot patrols were evident in the 15 hours I was in the city, which was scary considering the potential for a terrorist attack against these unprotected crowds. I really think while everyone is congratulating the various security officials they might want to take a moment to understand the reality that it wasn't any security plan that stopped an attack, it was the lack of an attempt that made the day safe. I've seen all of DC I wanted to see, I won't be back.

Posted by: johnq_out_of_town | January 21, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

As my 8 year old daughter put it, "It was bittersweet." Sweet because once we were "birthed" out of the horrendous crush of people on 7th street, we ended up on a nearly empty section of Pennsylvania Ave. and were rewarded with a view of our new president and his family. Bitter because as the hours ticked by and we inched closer to one of the four gates, letting about three people through every five minutes or so, the press of the crowd got so tight that my daughter got scared and started to cry, which led to people shouting, "Let these children out of here!", which led to another child getting crying, which led to my daughter being pulled through the crowd and out the gate. I was able to make it out to join her, with the other crying child and his mother right behind me. As I looked back at the fence, I saw three other children squished up against the fence. At that point, the woman controlling the gate made a decision to get all of those kids and their parents out of the crowd. It was scary and I truly believe that if it had not been such a joyous occasion, people would have been hurt. I thank all those around me who helped try to keep a little space around our child as long as they could.

The woman in charge of the gate informed me that she was a volunteer with the inaugural committee and was doing the best she could to get people in. She was told that the Washington Police Department was supposed to be in charge of crowd control out on the street. Then she pointed to the third story windows of the building above us where 20 or so uniformed police officers stood eating (doughnuts perhaps?)and taking photos of the crowd with their cell phones. "Direct all of your complaints to the D.C. police," she said.

And that's what I will do. I was shocked by the lack of information on the streets and the complete absence of crowd control. We the people of the 7th Street parade entrance should give ourselves a pat on the back for holding our tempers, looking out for one another and turning an adverse situation into an opportunity to get to know complete strangers up close and personal!

Posted by: JBair | January 24, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

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