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Ticket-Holder to Pelosi: Capitol Police Chief's Comments a 'Slap in the Face'

The anger among those ticket-holders who were denied entrance to Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony Tuesday is palpable. Emails are streaming in to Inauguration Watch (we're trying to respond to all of you, but please take this as a broad thanks for your input if we have missed you). One writer, Douglas F. Carlson, tells us he has faxed this letter of complaint to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) wasn't in charge of the ceremony -- that would be Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), head of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies-- but Pelosi is Carlson's representative and the person who give him a ticket.

Carlson is the registrar at the University of California-San Francisco, and he had flown to Washington on personal time for the inauguration. He requested tickets in November from Pelosi's office and was offered them in December, and he estimates his trip to Washington cost him $675.

"I had planned to write you a letter today thanking you for your generosity," Carlson writes. "Instead, I am already home, disappointed, angry, and frustrated. I am one of thousands of people holding tickets to the purple standing section who were denied admission."

Carlson is particularly incensed by the comments from Capitol Police Chief Phillip D. Morse. who was quoted in the Washington Post denying that any ticket holders were kept out, before later changing course and acknowledging that they were.

"Chief Morse’s comments are a slap in the face to ticket holders who quietly and patiently waited in line for hours, only to be denied admission," Carlson writes. "He appears to blame us, rather than the well-documented root cause of our anger."

By David A Nakamura  |  January 21, 2009; 5:09 PM ET  | Category:  Crowds , Security , Swearing-in Ceremony , Tickets
Previous: Inaugural Committee Apologizes for Ticket Fiasco | Next: Around the Web

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Barack Obama is the greatest liar in history (no wonder he is an excellent lawyer!) During his campaign, he told lots of hope in future for America if he was elected, but now he warns Americans of oncoming darker economy and not to put too much hope in his promises. He promises a big plan to reduce budget deficit but his inauguration ceremony this January will be the most costly in history (50 millions) while the nation is in deep depression, as well as his presidential campaign (600 millions), which was far more than his opponent John McCain's. He vows to clean up Washington DC, but he failed to first clean up his homestate Illinois, one of the most corrupt state with the scandal of Governor Rod Blagojevich, who greatly helped Obama to win his state senate seat in 1996, 1998, and 2002. And his favorite slogan is "Yes, we CAN", yet he himself CANNOT quit smoking at all !!! (Each year about 1.3 million American smokers quit successfully).

Posted by: TIMNGUYEN1 | January 21, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

While Mr. Carlson's fax may have been misdirected, his sentiments are right on target. The Inauguration Committee might have proactively prevented this fiasco by printing some attorney-vetted version of the following line on every ticket issued: "This ticket does not guarantee its holder admission to the Inaugural ceremony." Such a disclaimer might have made me think twice before taking three days off work and driving hundreds of wasted miles from western North Carolina.

I'd echo too the suggestions made thoroughly and forcefully by other posters: There should have been signage. There should have been barricades defining the line, so it might have snaked single-file down the many empty streets. There should have been better communication with the crowd. The situation didn't require anything fancy: If an officer with a bullhorn had told us at 11:30 a.m. that there was no chance of getting beyond the gates, we would have been able to find a TV in time to witness the event.

Perhaps there should have been loudspeakers, so we could at least hear the ceremony when it started. And certainly there ought to have been a separate line for veterans, the elderly and disabled: As a purple ticket-holder, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder (and sometimes closer) with a young soldier in full dress, wearing his Purple Heart; a visually impaired man who'd traded his trusty guide dog for a white cane so he'd be able to navigate the crowds and an older woman leaning on a walker. I'm not sure any of these fellow Americans were ever allowed inside, despite having waited many tough winter hours.

Finally, I wonder whether the tickets should have been designed so they were more difficult to counterfeit: While I have no idea whether any entrants used fake tickets, it seems winter clothing alone couldn't possibly account for the sections filling so much faster than anticipated, as an official quoted in the Post today suggested. This is pure speculation -- and probably irresponsible speculation at that -- but surely thousands of dreams weren't destroyed by down coats.

Thank you, Mr. Carlson, for staying atop this important issue. The chaos that overtook the purple gates yesterday wasn't just a matter of personal disapointment (although, to be sure, I cried with the other frustrated campaign staffers whose months of hard work led to a gate shut in their faces). There was a worrisome lack of planning and compassion that deserves serious and ongoing attention.

Posted by: shm9496 | January 21, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

I sent the following email to Senator Feinstein...

Dear Senator Feinstein,

As Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, I am writing to you to express what I can only describe as stunning and disbelieving disappointment in the management of the ticket lines for the swearing in ceremony. I waited in what I now refer to as "the long blue ticket line to nowhere" for many hours (hard-won ticket in hand). With no communication during the discombobulated, chaotic wait, I realized, along with the hundreds of others still in line by 11:50am, that I would not be able to see anything of the ceremony I had longingly hoped and painstakingly planned to see. The heartbroken faces of the people around me--people who had spent great amounts of time and money to make the journey--only to be turned away, made the blue ticket seem like an uber booby prize.

I read the brief and insufficient apology issued by your Committee today. Something more should be done to make amends for this grievous planning error. When I say more, I don't mean just an inquiry into what went wrong.


Lindsay Beckwith

Posted by: lbeckwith | January 21, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

We had blue tickets to get in and we were one of the lucky ones who were able to get in. We were standing in line for almost an hour and half with the line barely moving even though from where we were it seemed like there was a steady stream of people going in through the security check. Wondering why, I walked around and saw that there was this huge mass of people near the entrance and people constantly joining this mass without actually standing in line. All they had to do was to set up a little barricade or post a few officers there. I asked my wife to ditch the line and come join me at the entrance. We did and after a little while we were in.

Unfortunately, our Aunt/Uncle who got us the tickets couldn't get in. Neither did a lot of people we know. It's such a shame that the Inaugural committee didn't plan on managing the lines at the gates. All it would have needed was a few officers, a small barricade and a little common sense to make it orderly.

Posted by: AnotherRealAmerican | January 21, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

My wife and son got in barely in time in the orange section. Let's face it...this is stunning incompetence. Everyone knew there would be large crowds.

I suggest that someone should lose their job. Would you really trust the person(s) who didn't plan for this to take charge in the case of a real emergency? At least this time, no lives were lost.

Posted by: amaikovich | January 21, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

My family was lucky to receive 4 purple tickets and we decided to give three of them to friends that had worked on behalf of Obama in the key states of Indiana and Ohio. Thrilled at my ticket offer, these friends came by train and car across country to DC and slept on my floor. After heading out from my place at 7 am (in order to arrive at the Judiciary Square purple entrance by 8am), they returned about 6 hours later with astonishing stories of incompetent management by Senator Feinstein and her Committee. By now, the purple ticket fiasco has been well documented by the Washington Post so I will not recount the details of their experience except to say that they are consistent with others posted here. My friends were dismayed at their treatment but even that could not dampen their excitement at Mr. Obama's inauguration (for which they had worked so hard). I did what I could to apologize on behalf of us in Washington for their treatment and we moved on. Until today! I have been stunned as my friends, having read press accounts, have reached out to me today in anger from rest stops and train stations to react to what they say are patently untrue characterizations of the events by the Joint Committee and the Police. In particular, my friends dispute the statements that the issue was a function of a last minute crush (from people who arrived at 8am?!) and that only 4,000 people were affected.

Talk about salt in the wound. I have urged each of them to submit their factual statements to their own congresspeople. As a DC resident, I have also contacted Delegate Norton. I feel terrible that I brought such grief on these friends by giving them these toxic tickets. It is astonishing to me that my concern is not matched by the Joint Committee which seems to have decided that blaming the victims is their best PR strategy. I also am hopeful that PIC will become an advocate for these folks by insisting that no whitewash be permitted.

Posted by: dc1817 | January 21, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I arrived just after 5:00 am. I went to the designated entry point for the purple tickets. A line formed down 1st street around 4-5 people deep. I assumed my place at the end of the line at the corner of 1st and D Street. We moved around the corner and I could see the 3 blocks between my position and the entry had completely filled in. There were individuals trying to exit the area (either no tickets or in the wrong line). There was no communication or order.

Needless to say, after waiting in line for SEVEN HOURS, and traveling over 2,000 miles, we were informed the gates were closed and we would not be able to see or even hear the inauguration ceremonies.

I cannot even begin to express my disappointment. There is simply no excuse for what happened to me, my family, and the wonderful people I spent those 7 hours with.

Posted by: cyclone1 | January 21, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

I believe tens of thousand of people with tickets did not get in. We arrived on the mall at 7 a.m with two silver tickets and it never occurred to us we wouldn't get in with four hours of lead time. We kept getting rerouted farther and farther from the silver gate-- many, many people did not know where they were going and there were body to body crowds with people inching through in all directions. There were no signs and almost no crowd control personnel. It was total chaos. We finally found the silver line and followed it for at least a half mile. The line never moved. AT sixth street we were finally told by the rare security person that the line ended on 14th street (we were on 4th at that time). At this point, we assessed things and the guard agreed it seemed impossible that we and many thousands of others would get in. We were really crushed, as we could have easly gotten in at 6:30 into the unticketed areas, but there was no possibility of making our way to those entrances at this point. The crowds were also frightening as there was no crowd control and the lines simply were not moving. I met people on my plane road home who also did not get in. I believe the magnitude of this story will never be known because it happened so far off the mall and no reporters were there. Denise from Texas

Posted by: doctordenise | January 21, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

I can imagine the disappointment, but I am having a hard time feeling sorry for these people who thought they were VIPs and were going to somehow breeze through the 2 million people who all wanted to see the same event. Did they not watch the same media coverage for DAYS prior to the event warning everyone of the waits, lines, etc? Given the fact that no one was injured, and nothing was damaged, I think the event was a success and I praise the organizers and the police for managing this day that had such a potential for disaster. If this is the worst thing that happens to these folks, they will have lived a charmed life.

Posted by: DONOTSEND77 | January 21, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Hey, when I'm given a ticket to something and follow to the letter the instruction given to me with the ticket and invitation, I guess I expect that the people printing these tickets understand what they need to do to get us in. Don't give out the tickets if you can't handle the crowds. We arrive hours in advance, right where we were supposed to be, and we ended up hearing some echoes from the mall from behind the fence. Don't blame the ticketed people, who had a reserved place on the mall, for not getting in. The whole reason we got tickets was to avoid this stupidity.

Posted by: kkietz | January 22, 2009 3:04 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 6:16 AM | Report abuse

Blue Ticket Blues

I have never been so disappointed after getting to the blue gate at 6:30am and not getting into the inauguration. We followed instructions arrived over 4 hours early and still never made it in.

The Capitol Police were very unprepared to handle the blue ticket holders expected for the Capitol grounds. The police were misinformed, rude and very disorgainzed. There were many more than 5,000 ticket holders who were turned away because of inadequate staffing at security checkpoints.

We were told to get in a line and even at that hour the line stretched about 6 people wide on the south side of the capitol. The crowd remained calm, until the last hour, after waiting for 4 hours or more that no one was injured. There was no communications to the people in line as to what was causing the delay.

I hope this administration is better organized than the blue gate was at the inauguration. Let's weed out incompetent government employees.

Bob from Fairfax, Virginia

Posted by: ootsark | January 22, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

A day late and a dollar short... I feel that I would have been better served if I had stayed home as opposed to braving the winter elements. I initially was enamored with enthusiasm thinking that I may be doing myself a favor by arriving at 4 am to avoid the assumed line madness that was rumored to be looming over this inauguration. My thoughts of arriving pre-dawn were met with the surprise of thousands of people with the same thoughts and revealing to me that I was still dilatory. Who would have known that even though I would wait in line from 4am until 12pm that I would still be on the outside looking in. I throughout the ordeal would lead my fellow PURPLE TICKET holders in the occasional chants of "When I say O you say BAMA" and "One, Two, Three, Four, Let us Move a little more....Five, Six, Seven, Eight... Open up the Purple Gate". My enthusiasm waned when I noticed time was growing closer as the dawn of a new regime was about to begin as I found my self wedged between dedicated Americans that arrived with the promise in their tickets that they would see this political miracle of sorts take place. Only to be met with below freezing temperature and Police and information staff that was extremely inept for the duty of keeping thousands of people informed and comforted with adequate security. Thank God, that the spirit of Obama's candidacy kept people at bay and the thought that hopefully a change in our conditions at that time was soon to be on its way. Therefore, to all of my fellow Purple ticket holders let us take solace in the fact that we have a competent President that will lead us into a new era for a new America.

Posted by: debo_supreme | January 22, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I am responding to DONOTSEND77 whose post begins with:

"I can imagine the disappointment, but I am having a hard time feeling sorry for these people who thought they were VIPs and were going to somehow breeze through the 2 million people who all wanted to see the same event. "

My response:

Since you were not there, I daresay you are ill-equipped to provide an accurate assessment of the situation.

I WAS there, waiting patiently for hours in the Silver Line. No one there thought they were VIPs, in fact, most (99%) were ordinary citizens--most from out-of-town--who requested and received tickets from their congressional representatives. On that basis, many bundled up their families, paid a lot of money, and traveled great distances to see history.

Unfortunately, neither the Inaugural Committee nor the local security forces were up to the task of supporting these Americans who waited patiently with no information or guidance from anyone. These citizens followed the directions on their ticket to report to the gate at Maryland and 3rd, which they dutifully did, only to find that no one was getting in.

It is an understatement to say that there were inadequate numbers of personnel there--security and otherwise. In fact, there were NO personnel...none, nada...anywhere in sight to guide these thousands of visitors to the correct entrance gate.

Further, there were no signs pointing to the correct direction of the gate except the useless one at Independence and 3rd.

Worse, the correct entrance was only a few feet away to the left hand side of the crowd, blocked by bystanders who had no tickets and who intended to watch the inauguration from there. They are not at fault, by the way, no one asked them to move nor told them they could not stand there. It was a good vantage point if you didn't have a ticket. Unfortunately, it also coincided with the only entrance to the silver ticket area.

Again, there was simply no one there in control. One volunteer or one policeman could have--with a single bullhorn announcement--righted the situation. Never happened.

Only the good graces of the visitors kept this from becoming a mob. We're talking thousands of visitors, not hundreds, without direction or guidance, trapped by ill-placed barricades that in an emergency evacuation would have ensured that hundreds, if not thousands, would have been crushed or killed. It is a wonder that no one was hurt as it was.

I estimate the silver line itself had at least 5000 - 8000 or more who didn't get in. This included hundreds of uniformed military members who waited with us in line...probably the only true VIPs in that line. Friends told me later that those soldiers DID NOT get in, by the way.

Bottom line: you have the right to your opinions, but they are clearly based on ignorance of the facts and should be treated as such.

Posted by: goodhikers | January 22, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

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