Sun, Dec 21, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Security tightened for US inauguration

INCONVENIENCE Strollers, chairs and backpacks are among the items well-wishers will not be allowed to bring to the inauguration, leading some to rethink their plans

AP , WASHINGTON

No strollers near the US Capitol. No tents on the National Mall. None of that Silly String on the parade route.

That’s just a sample of the items forbidden from US president-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration for security reasons. And while many people say the inconvenience is a small price to pay to witness the swearing-in of the nation’s first black president, others are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they’ll sit, snack and carry diapers or transport tired tots.

Some seniors are backing out of their inaugural plans, partly because of a no-chair rule for the parade route. Parenting blogs are abuzz with complaints about the less-than-kid-friendly restrictions.

Thermoses, coolers and backpacks are out at both the Capitol and the parade route.

“Of course, they’re not going to say, ‘no children,’” said Sunny Chanel, a San Francisco-based contributor to Babble.com, a parenting Web site. “But they’re definitely not making it easy for parents with smaller children to go.”

The tightest rules are reserved for the lucky 240,000 ticket-holders who get to sit closest to the swearing-in ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol. There are understandable prohibitions on weapons and pepper spray. But you also can’t carry an umbrella. And don’t think about holding up any “Yes, We Did” signs — posters also are not allowed.

It could get tricky as people congregate along the parade route, where many items allowed on the Mall will be off-limits. That list includes bicycles, backpacks, aerosols (which could include Silly String), coolers, thermal containers and chairs.

Signs or placards can be brought to the parade — but only if they’re made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and are not more than 1m by 6m.

Antron Johnson, who’s organizing an inauguration trip with three busloads of Obama supporters from Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, said he’s had about a dozen people, mostly elderly, drop out after learning about the parade’s no-chair policy.

Additionally, Johnson said seven people, including families with young children, recently backed out — losing their deposits — because they’re afraid they won’t be able to maneuver in big crowds.

Turnout estimates vary widely, with Mayor Adrian Fenty’s saying 2.5 million to 3 million people are a possibility and the National Park Service planning for at least 1 million.

Johnson said some people are worried about packed Metro subway trains now that officials are sounding warnings. Metro has said its bathrooms will be closed for security reasons. The option left for parents wanting to change stinky diapers? Hundreds of porta-potties the transit system and park officials are providing downtown.

“It’s truly scaring people,” Johnson said. “The news is becoming more and more bleak.”

The rules aren’t so strict on the National Mall, where most people will end up because tickets aren’t required. Officials have said everyone will be checked, but they haven’t said what that will entail.

People won’t be able to see much (except what’s on Jumbotrons), but they can bring all sorts of stuff. Besides the obvious no-nos — firearms, explosives, fireworks — the only bans are on alcohol, tents and glass bottles.

“The ground rules for the Mall encourage the greatest number of participants and we’ve made it as welcoming as possible,” said Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

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