Inauguration-goers line up for security screenings
WASHINGTON — Spectators heading to President Barack Obama’s second inauguration encountered blocked-off streets, long lines at some security checkpoints and a crowded National Mall. But authorities reported no major problems ahead of Monday’s swearing-in, and forecast a significantly smaller crowd than the record-breaking turnout of 2009.
Police officers were stationed inside commuter rail stations and on street corners, and National Guard Humvees blocked some intersections in downtown Washington. Extra security was planned in the water and skies, including more than 2,000 police officers from out-of-town agencies sworn in to work security.
There were sporadic reports of slow-moving security lines and of checkpoints that opened later than advertised. But organizers said they hoped more and earlier signs, plus additional metal detectors, would ease congestion and reduce some of the logistical snafus from four years ago.
“We are striving to minimize inconveniences at all checkpoints,” Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said Monday. “Any protective effort of this magnitude will inevitably have unexpected delays.”
The cold weather was easily tolerated by Marie-France Lemaine of Montreal, who received the trip to the inaugural as a birthday present from her husband. She headed up an Obama advocacy group in Quebec that cheered on the president from north of the border.
“The American president affects the rest of the world,” she said.
Officials were expecting a crowd of between 500,000 and 700,000, far smaller than 1.8 million people who packed the National Mall in 2009 for Obama’s first swearing-in. About 266,000 train riders had entered the District of Columbia mass transit system as of 10 a.m. Monday, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. That was slightly above 50 percent of the 2009 level. Trains were briefly directed to bypass one Metro station because of crowding on the platform.
The U.S. Capitol Police were working to remove a man from a tree in the area of Garfield Circle, near the U.S. Capitol, said spokesman Shennell Antrobus. It wasn’t immediately clear what the man was doing there.
A smattering of protest groups were expected along the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue. A few dozen protesters with the ANSWER Coalition, a peace and social justice coalition, gathered at Freedom Plaza, near the White House, to honor the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s legacy and call for jobs, not war. Brian Becker, director of the antiwar ANSWER Coalition, said the group chose to focus on messages that would resonate with a pro-Obama crowd. In addition to the poster focusing on MLK’s legacy and jobs, protesters also had signs saying “Indict Bush Now” and “Drone Strikes (equals) War Crimes.”
Across from Freedom Plaza, the district government was making an effort to get its message across. A parade review stand for city officials who for decades have lobbied for congressional voting rights was emblazoned with the sign “A More Perfect Union Must Include Full Democracy in DC.”