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Not Quite 2009: Inauguration Crowds Smaller, But Still Leave Their Mark

From Obama condoms to Code Pink, chilly DC streets saw a dash of everything in the crowds that gathered.

Fallon Forbush


January 21, 2013 - 8:40 pm
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Due to thousands of complaints of packed crowds and even some incidents where ticketed attendees missed the ceremony due to congestion, there was a multi-agency investigation following the ’09 inauguration. The report released by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies a few months later revealed insufficient signage, poor coordination and the sheer amount of visitors at entrance gates as the main problem.

The committee only released the summary of the report because the full report contains sensitive information.

“It is the hope that all future security planners will benefit from this report and will be better able to effectively meet the many challenges, old and new, that will emerge during the next Presidential Inauguration in 2013,” the eight-page executive summary of the report said.

This year, people had more access to information on the ground.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies offered signups for real-time alerts on viewing area openings and closings, missing persons, road closures, serious crimes, lookouts, and weather-related concerns from the U.S. Park Police. The WAMTA also kept people informed on changes in public transportation with real-time email and text message updates. The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) also released a smartphone application, which included maps for ease of locating port-a-potties, food and beverages, first aid stations and locations for entrances and exits.

Volunteers were also organized and trained.

Kate Kramer, a 26-year-old Virginia resident, signed up to help the PIC.

“I am volunteering because I have never volunteered at a presidential inauguration before and I thought this would be a great opportunity to be involved with the last Obama inauguration,” Kramer said. “I was involved with the campaign in 2008 and I think this would be a great way to bookend my experience with the campaign.”

Kramer had to submit an application online and she received an email saying that she was selected to serve and had to undergo mandatory volunteer training sessions. One of the two sessions was at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, where all volunteers were grouped into different teams and broken down into different areas of responsibility.

“I am responsible for visibility, which means that I will be ensuring that all attendees will have flags that they can wave,” Kramer said.

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Fallon William Forbush is an award-winning journalist whose work has been recognized by The Ohio Newspaper Association and The Society of Professional Journalists (Central Ohio Pro Chapter) for excellence in reporting. Fallon first wrote for Hannah News Service, covering committee meetings of the Ohio Legislature before moving to Washington, D.C. He is also a practitioner of public relations with experience ranging from agency to grassroots communications. Follow Fallon on Twitter.
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