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Ticket-gate: Hundreds Call Feinstein's Office After Being Shutout

Here's the latest full story in the Post about Ticket-gate, a front page piece by reporters Pam Constable and Mary Beth Sheridan. The article details people's personal tales of woe, says hundreds have phoned the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and notes what we've told you here at Inauguration Watch already: That Feinstein has launched an investigation into what went wrong.

Meantime, here are some photos readers who were caught in those ticket lines have sent to Inauguration Watch:

cstreet.jpgPicture taken by Julie Dorshkind at 11:18 a.m. in Purple gate line near the corner of Louisiana and C Street.

blue gate fiasco.jpgSubmitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. Photo taken at 10:44 a.m. Tuesday in the Blue ticket-holder line. This was on Washington Ave. between C St. and Independence Ave.

purple gate fiasco.jpgPhoto by Larry J. Wilson taken at 10:15 a.m. at First and D Streets, in the Purple ticket line. An ambulance is attempting to make its way through the sea of people.

tickettunnel.jpgPhoto by Heather Colby taken in 3rd Street tunnel at 7:10 a.m. in the Purple ticket line.

By David A Nakamura  |  January 21, 2009; 11:06 PM ET  | Category:  Crowds , Security , Swearing-in Ceremony , Tickets
Previous: Official Head Count: 1.8 Million on the Mall | Next: Obama Takes Oath Again

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Yep...some people didn't get in...now what do they want? It cannot be compensation and there is no do-over, so are they just going to complain loudly? The situation was poorly handled and I am sure that a brief investigation will identify the root causes so that they can be incorporated into Obama's second inauguration in 2013.

Posted by: skipper7 | January 22, 2009 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Yes, those picture remind me of the five futile hours I spent trying to get in the Purple gate. I am gratified to hear that officials have called for an investigation. Let's publish the satellite photos.

Posted by: dlee8 | January 22, 2009 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Never in my entire life have I seen such massive mismanagement and complete lack of organization! It's a Really good thing that the crowd was full of Happy, Well behaved folks because this could have turned into a death trap very quickly! First of all they knew that we were expecting Millions of people but only prepared for hundreds. This should Not have been a surprise! I am a fifth generation Washingtonian and am scared to think of what DC would do in a real emergency! Why couldn't they think to ask Disney to come up and help them organize? There was No line! Just a Massive Mob, Trapped between fences and funneled into a ridiculous situation! 13 check points for Thousands of people?!?!The people who actually were in the blue line, did Not get in! The Mob from the other side who broke into line, Did get in!There was NO ONE directing Anything! There were no signs or signs that meant Nothing! There were police cars parked in line! There was No handicapped access so there were folks in wheel chairs in this Mess!There were three Police officers who couldn't tell us Anything but please stay on the other side of the white line! No Direction! No Volunteers at all! No Plan! No Line! No Signs! No Handicapped access! No Organization! No thought! Nothing but being packed like sardines going Nowhere!! Whoever was in charge of this debacle should be ashamed of themselves!! The lack of thought that went into this was the only obvious thing!

Posted by: Eurythmy2 | January 22, 2009 6:14 AM | Report abuse

skipper7, why even comment if you weren't part of the group that didn't get in? You didn't experience the frustration and disappoint of thousands who couldn't watch the ceremony in any capacity. Poorly handled doesn't begin to justify it. Why not hope that maybe someone will recognize that they experienced this frustration due to the incompetence of those who had the power to change it and that those same people could be creative and do something for them. It's not impossible to do be creative and hope. That's how we go to this day to begin with.

Posted by: bookreader1 | January 22, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I was in the Blue Ticket Line for 5 hours, and had 6 out of town guests with me. They had traveled from California and Chicago, and we all got shut out. We all had blue tickets, and I just want to comment on the kindness shown by all the people in the line. Everyone was courteous, and gracious. Those who jumped the metal fences were just trying to react to a bad situation - and I don't think it helped any of them get in. I estimate that 100,000 people were in the crowd that didnt get in. I just want those people to realize it was warming to be with patriots and acknowledge the diversity, the human kindness and ponder how great our country will be if we all act kind and graciuos to one another, always.

Posted by: LincolnFan | January 22, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

skipper... the reason for posting is in the hope that next time someone actually puts some thought/planning into this.

I'm not really sure what they need to investigate. Feinstein didn't have anyone in charge of crowd control, so all she can do is find herself incompetent. Here's what should have been done: 1) recognize that you have 240000 people showing up and there will be lines. 2) Set up markers or fences (disneyland-style) to clearly indicate where the line is. Assume the line will need to accomodate 15000 people. 3) Have enough police/staff support to ensure people stay in the line and don't rush the gate. 4) Have police with bullhorns to help give information to the crowd. that's it.

NONE OF THAT HAPPENED. I was fortunate. I showed up late (9am-ish) to the Purple gate, realized it was a disaster and just pushed forward into the main mass directly in front of the gate. I feel for all the folks that got there early, lined up, and then had the police ignore the line and just start letting in people that were mobbed in front of the gate. ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE CROWD/QUEUE CONTROL.

Posted by: anarchyjim | January 22, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Thank goodness the crowd controlled themselves. I was with a group that was in the 3rd Street tunnel for about 4 hours. There were people with tickets who had no priority. The scariest part of it is that the authorities basically trapped everyone between fencing and the wall of port-o-potties set up. Many of the masses were from out of town and there was no direction given from police. Most police I asked or others asked for direction were replied to coldly that they didn't live here. There was no signage, cell phones were inoperable, and many police just observed and offered no assistance. How can a major event be planned expecting a huge amount of out of towners and NO ONE BE ABLE TO GIVE DIRECTIONS TO WHERE A METRO STATION IS LOCATED OR HOW TO EXIT THE AREA. Everyone was told going through my checkpoint that you basically had the choice of seeing either the inauguration or the parade. After the inauguration is when the chaos started. All of the coordinated efforts, millions spent on security and planning and the cheapest things to afford such as signage and bullhorns were neglected. IT IS SHAMEFUL THAT WHOEVER HELPED PUT THIS TOGETHER MAY STILL HAVE A JOB AFTER THIS. There needs to be a serious internal investigation into this fiasco before another event turns into a great tradgedy.

Posted by: orinluke | January 22, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Just thought I would do the math, since someone didn't! It's almost preposterous. 240,000 Possible ticket holders to pass security in 3 hours. That's 80,000 people an hour. Five or six screening points, that's 13,333 cleared entrants an hour. That's 216 entrants a minute. That's 36 entrants a second. If they could actually clear people one a second, each of the security points needed 36 separate entrances with staff. A total of around 216 separate entrances would be needed to handle 240,000 entrants smoothly. That would be if tickets for each section were issued equally. When actually, purple, blue and especially silver carried the highest proportions of ticket holders. The Geosky Photo taken at 11:19 shows thousands at Purple, Blue and Silver screening points with lots of space in these sections empty. This doesn't even include the untold thousands unseen in the the 3d steet tunnel. Conclusion: this whole thing was an impossibility in the best of circumstances with the restrictions in place and could have been prevented with a little up front math. The numbers show they probably couldn't have handled half of the tickets distributed. I think maybe 10,000 or 20,000 ticket holders (invited guests, I add) didn't get in to see the whole ceremony, if any. The math and Pictures prove it. I didn't have a ticket, but was in the area on my bicycle after the ceremony and saw and heard the politely disgruntled and disappointed everywhere. I mention my bicycle because it allows me to cover a lot of ground quick. I Know downtown DC and the mall very well. I have attended many events on the mall. I was shocked at how difficult it was, this time, to circumvent restrictions and move around the mall and parade route. Even with the speed and mobility my bicycle gave me. It almost didn't make sense and was probably done with little analyses and worse, callous disregard for how if would effect thousands of visitors most of them on foot.
I note that hundreds of thousands of guests had a great time, I saw them everywhere, this doesn't excuse the debacle at the Capital end of the Mall. I just can't understand the blatent disregard towards these invited guests. I understand that not everything can be anticipated, but this was just simple math. I was there, I saw the thousands of painfully cold and tired with disappointed faces. I suggest pinpointing the group of people who were in charge of this particular operation.(who were probably quickly escorted to their VIP seats) Than I want those people to have to stand in line in the third street tunnel, in the cold, with no toilets for 3 hours. Then they will barely be able to understand what their incompetence cost.
Personally, I felt from the very beginning, given the times as they are, the inauguration should have been a much more subdued affair setting a tone of greater austerity, even given the history of the event
Michael C. Veax

Posted by: mikeveax | January 22, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

What's the point of the outcry? Here's the point.

I live in the DC area. (I was one of the silver ticket holders who non-violently but assertively surged the single silver ticket gate which wasn't open, climbed the barricades, and tore down a fence to get in to our rightful place on the Mall.)

Our nation's policymakers, leaders and top law enforcement officials can not even manage -- with advance notice, and a huge budget -- to get people with tickets through checkpoints.

We have now seen what would happen to Washington if we had a full-scale 9/11-like situation, or a forced evacuation. It would be chaos.

A total debacle.

Our law enforcement, and political and city leaders can't handle a PLANNED event.

Just imagine how their incompetence will completely bungle a terrorist attack or emergency situation?

Doesn't give you a feeling of confidence, does it? It shouldn't.

Because if you, like me, live in the Washington area, you have just seen a vision of how inept the leadership really is.

They all need to get their acts together, and soon....because there is a great deal of work to do, and we don't have time for this sort of gross incompetence.

Posted by: MaryKensington | January 22, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm one of thousands who can corraborate these accounts. We stood in the blue "line" (more like blue mob) for hours. No instructions, no police, no order. Fortuantely, people were calm and civilized. It could have turned ugly. I'm still dejected with what can generously be called a fiasco that could have been avoided with beter planning.

dlee8, here's a link to the satellite pics: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2009/44.president/inauguration/mall.satellite/

Posted by: jenjen2 | January 22, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I watched young children cry "no Mommy, I want to see my President." It was heartbreaking.

The thing I kept really leaning on was "what if something really happened? Could the officials handle it." I've heard, "they lost control." There was never any control. I hope they keep our President safer than we were. Shoved in a tunnel with no way through the crowds. People fainting, and the police actually walked away when the crowd cried for help for someone on the ground.

I felt so lucky to have a ticket, but I didn't ask for it. It was offered and accepted with great pride. I would have stayed home and watched with my family, instead I never got to hear a word of what was said. We didn't just no "see" the event, we didn't even hear anything. I take that back. I got to hear the canons go off right next to our gate and got to witness elderly people cry that they didn't see the ceremony happen.

I haver to say I felt most sad for the elderly African American who thought they'd never see this presidency happen. Most people tried desperately to hold onto the history and happiness of the event, but it was so hard.

The only thing I think the committee can do now is make a DVD available to those who did not get in. The congressmen know who they gave tickets to, and who didn't get in. I'll pay for the DVD, just make it available.

Posted by: suznorberg | January 22, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Here is my video footage of the Blue Ticket Gate at 11:41am. A complete and total debacle. I hope many organizers lose their jobs over this one.


Posted by: jeffwheeland | January 22, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I were among the purple ticket holders who spent most of their Inauguration Day in the Third Street tunnel. For us, we would just like to know the truth as to what happened. We are from Ohio, and the Inauguration was to be a big day for my wife, and it turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment.

A couple of observations. We visit Washington fairly often as we have a daughter working there. The city has a satisfying affect on people, and Inauguration Day in the tunnel was no different. People were well-behaved, upbeat, and joyous of the event and celebration, even after they learned that they were being denied entrance. People around us had traveled from Minnesota, Oregon, and Nebraska to be there.

Unfortunately, it was too late to find a place to see anything when we learned that we were not getting on to the grounds. The Mall was not accessible, and we were all locked down in that corner with no place to go. What a shame for those who did not know there way around the Capitol. We were lucky to duck into a Bistro on E Street and watch on TV. There was not even a JumboTron in our area.

I read a report that the Police Chief or someone else in authority said that there was security in the Third Street tunnel. That is simply not true. In the almost three hours that I was in the tunnel, I can't recall seeing one police officer, or any security people, or anyone directing traffic. The only security we saw were flying by in vehicles. It was actually quite unsafe, and the city was lucky that no one was hurt or killed by fast moving limos, emergency vehicles, and police cars.

Again, we are not looking for any reward for our plight, only to learn what actually happened and why we did not get in. I hope the Post will not let the story die, or be buried by some attempted act of repair (Feinstein's goody bag).

Thanks for staying with the story. Continue to do so.

Posted by: bobbrown1 | January 23, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

It is more of an understatement to say I was disappointed on Tuesday when the police did not allow us to enter the purple gates. I stood in a tunnel for hours with thousands of purple ticket holders waiting to move towards the purple gate. A group behind me kept singing patriotic songs. This; even when we only had one hour left to get in the gate from where we stood. The whole time I kept looking at my friend saying; "We will never get in". It was 10:30 am and I knew looking at the line in front and even longer line behind me that it was never meant to be. We made many friends while in line, from Alaska to Texas; learning of the money they spent to get to D.C with a promise that their purple ticket would get them on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol to witness the inauguration of our first black president.

Some 230 thousand tickets were handed out and 80 thousand of them were purple ticket holders. My girlfriend who traveled with me to D.C and puts on the Common Ground festival in Lansing, Mi. told me that it takes two hours for her staff to pre ticket 15 thousand people before the gates open. If it takes two hours for 15 thousand people without all of the security measures our national police force have to take for the presidential inauguration, how in the world does it add up that 80 thousand people are going to get through the purple gates between 9am and 11:30 am?

When I do the calculations over and over in my head, it is very clear to me that there was never an intent to get that many people through the gate. The only time I saw any leadership or police was when I got to the gate, purple ticket in hand. The police told us to be quiet, we did. The police told us to not push, we stayed still, the police told us if we behaved, they would let us through. So we did. We waited like sardines for them to let us in.

I cannot even express the emotions that ran through the crowd the moment the police closed those gates. “What did we do?" We did everything they asked. It was 12:10 and a moment I will never forget. When the crowd finally broke up, I just started sobbing. For what should have been one of my greatest moments in American history, became the saddest. I huddled around a cell phone with several others listening to the speech, crying. That is how I witnessed history.

The pictures I have of the inauguration? Thousands in a tunnel. Hundreds outside a gate waiting to be let in. People holding up their purple tickets in hand as police requested. A gate closed during the swearing in. Those are my memories from what has turned out a most unfortunate historic moment. Shame on the inauguration planning committee!

Posted by: guthrie2 | January 23, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

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