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Poll: Purple Ticket Restitution

As reported yesterday, those who missed the swearing-in ceremony because they were stuck outside the gates of ticketed areas will be receiving souvenir packets as apologies for their disappointment. But is that enough? Vote in the poll below.

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  January 23, 2009; 10:26 AM ET  | Category:  Swearing-in Ceremony , Tickets
Previous: Sen. Feinstein: Purple and Blue Ticket-holders Will Receive Special Souvenirs (*Updated) | Next: Purple Ticket-Holder Planning Ceremony Do-Over

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I don't need compensation. I just want them to tell the truth and take some responsibility. Stop saying that only 4,000 people were shut out, or that the gates opened as planned, or that the sections were full. Satellite photos show sparse crowds in the ticketed areas at 11:30, and huge crowds at the gates. There were at least 20,000 people with tickets that couldn't get in, and the committee knows this by the number of e-mail's they are getting.

No souvenirs can make up for missing the inauguration, so all I ask is the truth. Figure out what went wrong, report it truthfully, and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Posted by: djtj | January 23, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Unless the idiots who messed this up have a time machine, they can't fix this. They denied us our chance to see what we'd worked for, prayed for, hoped for so long.

Posted by: lkop56 | January 23, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad that Sen. Feinstein and others are taking the swearing-in ticketing problems seriously and investigating. Similarly, I'd like to see the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) address the issue of why the parade route was shut down so early and why even ticketholders with reserved bleacher seats were denied entry more than 3 hours before the parade started (the tickets explicitly stated that guests must be seated 30 minutes prior to the parade).

As one of those ticketholders denied entry without explanation, I have contacted both the PIC and Ticketmaster for a refund of the $117 I paid (for 4 parade tickets). The PIC has not returned phone calls and Ticketmaster so far hasn't been able to provide any information.

I had a great time at the inauguration and do not wish to be a complainer, but I don't think it's too much to ask for a refund as well as a simple explanation and apology from the PIC. Why has this not happened?

Posted by: dh2009 | January 23, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

How about they host a few events on the White House lawn and let ticket holders come to one? It could be a bbq, something like they do for the Easter Egg roll, or an official ceremony like a state arrival ceremony. It would be a nice experience for those shut out. It doesn't make up for what happened, but it wouldn't be that expensive for the government and would likely be a neat experience for the people involved. They would still have to pay to get back to DC, but it would be a cheaper time of year than the Inauguration.

Beyond the restitution, it is important to get to the bottom of the whole security (or actually non-security) situation. The planning and execution does not bode well for the future should DC ever face a mass evacuation. There were serious problems that need to be investigated so that we can prevent real life and death consequences in the future.

Posted by: julied1 | January 23, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Look, I'd like a private dinner with Barack, but that's not happening! So, all I wish for in exchange for my purple ticket is a DVD showing the inauguration ceremony. I still haven't even seen the whole thing. That would make me happy.

Posted by: acatania | January 23, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

At least the purple ticket holders received their tickets for free. While waking up early and fighting crowds is certainly a bummer, imagine paying $75 and up (scalped tickets, dresses, tuxedo rental, drinks, etc) only to get shut out of an inaugural ball and treated like a criminal (riot police, bull horns and all!!!). While the purple ticket holders should receive some form of recompense, the holders of the youth ball tickets that did not get into the ballroom should be refunded $75, apologized to and be invited to some future presidential event!

Posted by: jimaleg1 | January 23, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I agree:
"I don't need compensation. I just want them to tell the truth and take some responsibility."

But many others do need compensation because of the expenditures they made to get there. And, priority free entry to some other Obama speech/event would be nice. I don't want to wait to the 2013 Inauguration.

Posted by: VictoriaJZ | January 23, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

We should all be invited to hear Obama speak in person, though it would have to be in a place that held a minimum of 10,000 seats.

An event on White House grounds would also be acceptable.

Just as long as they don't have the same clowns working security, of course.

Posted by: jessindc | January 23, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

As one of the thousands of dejected Blue-ticket holders who experienced "Heartbreak Ridge: The Story of The Blue People," I'm not interested in compensation, or some kind of do-over event, and certainly not some trinket or package.

I'm interested in finding out what happened... every American should be. Because, I'll tell you what, I would trust my life in the hands of Blue Ticket Holders in that crush of humanity, far more so than I would the Capitol Police or whoever else was in charge of the non-existent law enforcement in our security checkpoint "line."

Posted by: CincyJen | January 23, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Nothing within reason can compensate for having missed the ceremony, particularly dedicated campaign workers or civil rights activists or those who suffered under segregation who hoped and waited for this moment.

I agree with the sentiment that the primary thing should be to figure out what and how it happened, and for there to be some accountability.

Feinstein should not let the Secret Service, the Sergeant-at-Arms, or the various police chiefs white-wash or spin the whole thing.

While I applaud the overall success, in that there were no incidents, and no life-threatening injuries, particularly galling were various inaccurate, condescending, and arrogant comments made by some of these officials.

-- A disappointed purple-ticket holder.

Posted by: stivd | January 23, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree. The committee can never compensate for a historic moment that was lost by thousands. They should be investigated by the President himself and fired for their total lack of planning and security. Through my whole horrible purple ticket locked out experience, all I kept thinking was that my kids could plan better than this. What an embarrassment. I want to know that our new leader is upset about what happened to the american public who traveled, pinched pennies, froze, and starved to see him give his speech. I want to hear it from his mouth that he is ashamed at what happened to us. God save us all of these police officers or lack there of have to be there in a crises.

Posted by: guthrie2 | January 23, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"I want to know that our new leader is upset about what happened to the american public who traveled, pinched pennies, froze, and starved to see him give his speech. I want to hear it from his mouth that he is ashamed at what happened to us."

In one of his many press conferences it would be nice to hear that he is at least AWARE of what happened to thousands of staffers, volunteers, and others who were shut out due to simple incompetence of the organizers and officers of this event.

Then, an invitation.

None of this will ever make up for our lost moment taking part in history, but it might help.

Posted by: kashabear | January 23, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I, too, would love some indication from President Obama that he does know what happened and he is not already in the White House bubble. I emailed him this morning, and am certainly not expecting an answer as I think he just might have his hand full. I still cannot bring myself to watch the Inauguration, though. I can't believe that as compensation they want to send us a color photo of the inauguration...nothing like rubbing salt in the wound!!! As much as I would love to be invited to the White House, I truly doubt that could ever happen. All you other survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom...we know how many people were in there that day. No way they culod have all of them to the White House. How about VIP seats to his 2021 swearing in ceremony? Everyone who was put in this situation and has taken the time to contact their representatives should receive something besides the inaugural "stuff" they are offering. It is a slap in the face. Also...no way they would have enough to go around for all the people in that tunnel that day.

Posted by: mchoco | January 23, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

As a blue blue ticket holder, I'd be happy to be offered a tour of the white house or to be invited to hear Mr. Obama speak. A White House Dinner would most definitely be a welcomed gesture (yes, I know it won't happpen). The restitution packet? No thanks.

Posted by: lbeckwith | January 23, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who are telling us to quit complaining, you try being stuck in the 3rd Street Tunnel for 4 hours in subfreezing temperatures with no clue as to what is going on. All we wanted was to get in to see the ceremony, we waited patiently only to see cops drive past us and laugh while taking our picture. When we finally got out of the tunnel and started cheering and singing and chanting, we were quickly shut down when told that the gates were closed. Happy Inauguration everyone! You just stood in a dark, damp, cold, dirty tunnel for 4 hours and you don't get to come in. Obviously, nothing will completely make up for not really witnessing history. But I for one would like more than just an apology and a souvenir packet.

Posted by: BruinGirl2001 | January 23, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

The Law enforcement was not corretly informed on what to tell people. That was poorly handle by somebody at the top. The officers are not the blame for that. It was a big disappointment that I did not get to see President Obama take the Oath. See you in 2014!!! God's Blessings

Posted by: darrell31 | January 23, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Just a few observations about the purple gate. I know a lot of you are very disappointed, but some of the facts are totally false. I know that the purple gate was open on time and remained open until about the time the cannons went off. I was there. The line started forming well before 8am. The police tried their best to maintain the integrity of that line at the gate. By the time the gates were open, their was so many people in front of the gate, that the line had been consumed by a mass crowd. Their was no line anymore, just a mass of people pressing forward on the gate and the police. For those of us at the gate their was no way of knowing exactly where the line ended. Not every one in the crowd was well behaved. It was a me first attitude and survival of the fittest at the front of the gate. If thy were given an inch, people would press forward, pushing each other. It's too bad for the people who waited patiently in line, but some of your fellow supporters who showed up later didn't care about any lines and just pressed forward towards the gate. But who can blame them, because as I stated, the line had been consumed by the overwhelming crowd. I'm sorry for those who waited in line, but to even speak of a line by the time the gate was opened is ridiculous. Police were sent in to try and maintain the line for those who had waited. But remember their is only about 1600 of them total, spread out all over the Hill. They were simply overwhelmed. They risked their own safety by wading into the crowd. They were pushed and pressed upon by the crowd. Surrounded. Remember they each carry loaded weapons. Some of those officers put their own safety at risk to get you in. They saw first hand the disappointment on your face. They felt your frustration. They became frustrated. You wanted answers. They wished they had them. Some of the officers who were just as cold and had been up just as long looked frustrated as they were just overwhelmed by a huge mass of people. When you throw blame at the police, you include everyone of them (not just the officials). But even those officers, many of whom voted for Obama, who did the best they could to get as many people in given the circumstances. How wonderful it must be for some of them to have their efforts trashed. Is this the new Obama America where when things don't go our way we complain and look for heads to roll. Certainly things could have been gone better. No doubt lessons were learned and hopefully things will go smoother next time. Why are you so quick to throw stones and assume you could have done better. Is it so hard to believe that sometimes people do the best they can and just fall short. It's not always possible to see beforehand all the problems that may arrive during an event of that magnitude. And they're not always that easy to correct as quickly as you would like and in a manner that pleases everyone.

Posted by: johnpaul2 | January 23, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

CincyJen, that's a horrible comment to make about the Capitol Police. I'm sorry the day didn't turn out as you hoped. But to make a blanket statement like that about the Capitol Police is unfair. You insult every officer many of whom were up just as long and were just as cold and made every effort to get as many people in safely as possible. I thought Democrats were supposed to be more open-minded. You have no idea how difficult their task was. I'm sure despite your best efforts you never fall short at your job. Aren't you glad your failures aren't so public.

Posted by: johnpaul2 | January 23, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Dear johnpaul2,

Again, I think it's one of those things where you had to be there. At one point in the Blue line, we were all lifting wheelchairs carrying disabled war veterans to get them out of the crowd, with absolutely no assistance or presence from the police, or whichever department was supposed to be in charge of crowd management. It was absolutely a dangerous situation, as any of the thousands who experienced that day will tell you.

I am sorry that you are not able to accept truthful descriptions of what went on at the scene. Of course their task was difficult, but they did not perform it. Someone at the very top of the police & safety organizations charged with ensuring our safety at the Inauguration that day needs to be held accountable, for the greater good and to ensure this does not recur in the event of an emergency, in which they would not have the luxury of weeks worth of planning.

Think about that for a moment. And then think how lucky the entire nation was that the thousands of people stuck in those crowds remained peaceful and jovial. I will remind you, we were most likely all Democrats.

Posted by: CincyJen | January 24, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

And one last thing, johnpaul2... when you insist that you were there at the purple gate, how could you possibly know the purple gate was opened on time and remained open until the 21-gun salute? Are you saying you were one of those charged with manning that gate?

There are now dozens of YouTube videos showing the shuttered purple gates, so they were quite apparently closed at one time or another. And the satellite photo taken at 11:19 am shows huge swaths of the blue, purple and silver areas empty. Even more telling is watching the crowd shots on CNN taken just before and after noon... the silver area filled in, but the blue and purple areas never did. It is ludicrous to suggest that the gates remained open and any ticket holder who reached them could have entered.

Perhaps those charged with security at the gates performed their jobs admirably. However, it is apparent by every account except for yours so far that there was no crowd management or police presence at the entry to the security areas. Considering that every four years, these same areas are open for viewing the Inauguration, what on earth happened this time? Was there nobody in charge who retained any institutional memory?

White-wash it if you will, and blame it on those of us in the crowds who planned early, showed up hours ahead of time, and waited patiently. But your account of the day simply does not wash.

Posted by: CincyJen | January 24, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

CincyJen, I was there. At the purple gate. I'm a Capitol Police Officer. I'm just an officer. I had nothing to do with the planning. I'm not questioning the accuracy of your account, or anybody else's. But I've heard people say things about purple gate which are just false. Such as it not opening on time. I was there. From 4am until it ended. I took exception with your comment about us. Why is it so hard to understand that there were just too many of you compared to us. We just couldn't be everywhere. We responded to many medical emergencies. I was in the crowd. Forget about democrat or republican. Whoever they were at the front, they were pushing over each other to get in. Why can't you except my account of events. I was face to face with the public. For the most part they were thanking me(us) for being there. They saw first hand the difficulty we were having getting people in. They were frustrated. So was I. It seems to me it comes down to this...If you were able to get in...we did a great job. If we failed to get you in...we suck in every way. We worked hard and long that day. We froze are asses of like every one else. I wish all of you could have gotten in. It just really sucks for the average officer to get blasted when we were just trying to do are best. You work so hard and all you get is insults. I'm honestly sorry we couldn't get you in.

Posted by: johnpaul2 | January 24, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

There just wasn't that many people four years ago. Trust me it was like night and day. For those of us who had done inaugarations before, we were totally surprised at the size of this. Of course I'm biased and willing to give the benefit of the doubt that it just may have been too difficult to plan for. I don't know. I'm just a foot soldier right now who feels like he and his fellow officers worked to hard to be insulted so easily.

Posted by: johnpaul2 | January 24, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

What truly concerns me, beyond any mismanagement of the gates, is people without tickets and without any security screening got into the (no longer) secured perimenter area, climbed up in trees, lightposts, portapots, and walls. All it would have taken is one whacko with a sniper rifle to make one good long-range shot to create mass havoc. Personally, I would also hold the Secret Service accountable. I work on a military installation and we have better security here.

Posted by: Lizard4280 | January 24, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

And the Capitol Hill Officer is right. For the most part, it's not their fault. Having been in the Federal government for many years, I know that it's the higher-ups who make the decisions, and they rarely consult with or inform the worker bees.

Posted by: Lizard4280 | January 24, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Souvenir programs are not a replacement for what we missed. Since I not only missed the entire inauguration, but also missed my son's performance with the San Francisco Boys Chorus, I want a high-resolution, complete (not excerpted, no cutaways) DVD of the entire SF Boys and Girls Chorus performances, plus a DVD of the entire inauguration ceremony. I also want tickets to the 2013 inaugurual.

Posted by: cgirardeau | January 24, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

johnpaul2 - thank you for the clarification. And thank you for your hard work that day in miserable conditions. As noted, I was not in the Purple Ticket line, I was in the Blue Ticket "line." And you're right, there were not enough of you further back in the crowd where you were more needed. That is the fault of your superiors and the planners.

I was frustrated reading your initial account because you seemed to slam Obama supporters and Democrats in general, which was wholly unfair and unnecessary. But again, I would like to thank you for all that you and your fellow officers did under almost-impossible circumstances. I believe one of the main foul-ups of that day was the HORRIBLE SIGNAGE in our Blue Ticket area; an officer with a bullhorn could have accomplished a world of good, providing people with information and instructing those without tickets (or the wrong color of ticket) that they were in the wrong place.

I would like to add this: My hat is off to the Capitol Police officers who handled the crowd crush at Union Station, approximately 4:30 pm, which I was also stuck in, trying to catch my pre-ticketed MARC Train back. It was another scene of chaos and disorganization, until Capitol Police Officers thought and acted quickly and took it upon themselves to stand up on barricades, shouting directions to us at the top of their worn-out lungs. They kept us calm, told us Union Station had been evacuated earlier, assured us we would all reach our trains, and then separated us into Amtrak/MARK/VRE lines. Once inside the station, the train officials grabbed bullhorns and provided further instructions. The officers at Union Station went above and beyond that day.

Posted by: CincyJen | January 24, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

johnpaul2 - I just wish to add one more heartfelt apology to you and your fellow officers. I hope and trust that you are as disappointed with your superiors and other officials as we were that day, when we were desperate in that crush of people at the Blue "Line" just craving information, instructions, and some assemblance of crowd control.

I will also add that the day was not a complete loss! I am not one of the ticket holders who is extremely angry... I was disappointed, sure, but never angry. I was at 2nd and East Capitol as the cannons went off. I made it to The Dubliner outside Union Station just in time to see Bush's helicopter leave and to join in hearty choruses of "There No One As Irish As Barack Obama." The day was a BLAST and I would do it all over again.... although I'll bet you guys might not want us to!! :-)

Honestly, your explanation that you and your colleagues were honestly surprised at the amount of people crowding at the gates compared to previous Inaugurations is THE BEST and ONLY explanation many of us have heard yet! So thank you for that... and again, thank you for putting in such a long and frustrating day, doing your best. We should all be thankful that nothing horrible happened, and to that we owe our thanks to the Capitol Police as well as the jovial and, for the most part, good-natured crowds such as the one I experienced at the "Blue Ticket To Nowhere" gate.

Posted by: CincyJen | January 24, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

CincyJen, I think I did try to take a shot at Democrats and obama supporters in my first post. It was late and I was frustrated. I think we can all agree it was a frustrating day for all involved. Hope we get it right next time and get you in.

Posted by: johnpaul2 | January 24, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

CincyJen and johnpaul2, Hats off to both of you for engaging in such a polite, friendly and informative discussion through your comments here! You exemplify the most amazing, inspiring qualities that we witnessed earlier this week during the inauguration events -- the kindness, the spirit of sharing, the working together, and the joy in sharing a historic moment. Yes, there was frustration, but that never overcame the goodness that people showed. Even with the chaos, the craziness, and the cold, I would not have traded one minute of the experience. Thank you both for continuing that wonderful spirit in your comments.

Posted by: jcleesattle | January 24, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

The Nation's Capital will celebrate the effective, efficient security measures during the recent Inauguration festivities at the National Bollard Festival.

See http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/celebrate-inaugural-security/

Posted by: MikeLicht | January 25, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I would like for the omitted persons to receive a letter of apology from President Obama, explaining the logistical (or other) reason(s) that the invitees were "locked out". It would be wonderful if they could be invited to dinner. However, that is not likely for thousands of people.

Posted by: bevsoares | January 25, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse


I'm sure you and all the other Capitol Police officers did the best you could for the unanticipated crowd that descended upon the US Capitol on the day of the Inauguration. It's just amazing that the Capitol Police Chief publically stated all ticket holders had entered when in fact thousands of purple, blue, and silver ticket holders did not. An updated statement by him was issued after reaction pointing directly opposite flooded the Joint Congressional Committee of Inaugural Ceremonies email. It felt to me that this was the first ceremony not the 56th as I was stuck at First and Indiana all morning in the crowd. Fortunately you had the crowd was joyful and happy otherwise it would surely overshadowed the ceremony had a riot, injuries, and deaths occurred. Perhaps blame should be on the lead security force instead not the Capitol officers?

Posted by: Mikefrom8thdistrict | January 26, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

No doubt it was great to be in DC that day, but I was a blue ticket holder who stood in line like a squished sardine from 7:30 am - noon. I have a serious back problem... yet I was more than willing to withstand the pain in line for hours (in the freezing cold) to witness our President take his oath.

Shame on them for not letting us in after all that hassle (Metro was ridic). I saw an old lady in a wheelchair who drove up from New Orleans with her daughter to see the ceremony. When security told her she couldn't get in with her tickets, my heart melted when I saw the tears streaming down her face :(

I think they should invite all of us to another Obama event, so we can hear our president speak.

Posted by: minasaywhat | January 26, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Just a kiss, Mr. President, just a kiss.

Posted by: susan-thompson-md | January 27, 2009 7:10 AM | Report abuse

ticketmaster tells me they are refunding the 25 each for parade tix but not shipping or other fees. I'm still filing a dispute with my credit card.

Posted by: juliusc91 | January 27, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Sorry JohnPaul2, but you are an apologist for the overall incompetance of the job that was done. I'm sure you worked very hard and are an honest witness. However, more personnel, more signs, an earlier opening of the gate would have helped. It is clear from my experience at the gate that a major factor in the problem was the cutting in. Why were people cutting in? Well they were worried that they weren't going to get in even though they had a ticket. Weren't they right? It seems to me that what bothers people the most is that they were good people didn't cut in, stood quietly in line and ended up as suckers, while those who pushed got in.

Posted by: MitchinADK | January 27, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

To answer the question, I'd like the DVD of the ceremony. I'd be willing to pay a nominal fee for it even. The bottom line is that we all know this could have been done better, this wasn't Katrina. This was just a lot of very cooperative people going through security. In your heart you know this could have been managed better.

Posted by: MitchinADK | January 27, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

So far, no instructions have been posted on the Joint Committee's site for redeeming the restitution packets. If they've changed their minds, then that information should be posted. I will be watching to see if promises are kept.

Posted by: lbeckwith | January 29, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Just received this email from the JCCIC:
Thank you for contacting the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies regarding ticket entry problems with the swearing-in ceremonies on January 20, 2009. The Members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies realize the importance of this day for so many people who braved the cold and waited in long lines for hours. We deeply regret that certain guests were unable to witness this historic event. As a result, we have asked that the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police conduct a thorough analysis of two incidents: first, delayed or limited screening and entry to purple and blue standing areas; and second, the fact that thousands of people – many with tickets – were stuck for several hours in the 3rd Street Tunnel without the presence of any law enforcement personnel. Your comments are vital to understanding what happened at these entry points. Pleas e be assured that your comments are being read and compiled as this analysis moves forward.

If you have not done so already, please reply to this email providing your name and mailing address. Please make sure that your full name and address are at the top of your email.

Thank you.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies

Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Posted by: lbeckwith | January 29, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

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