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While out-of-town officers were preparing for the parade Monday morning, orange ticket holders were frustrated by long security waits at the Capitol. Some who arrived at 7 a.m. were shepherded behind a large fenced-off traffic circle, only to see law enforcement officers allow latecomers to pile into the previously closed area in front of them. Many were told earlier in the day that the streets in the traffic circle were reserved for access by emergency vehicles.
But around 10:15 a.m., officials opened the area, trapping many visitors already in the crowd behind those who arrived much later.
Dozens of ticket holders jumped the barricade. Hundreds of others walked back to the entry gate and waited until they were allowed into a mostly empty plot of grass much closer to the stage.
“Somebody made the decisions that we’re just going to put people in the middle of the street,” Capitol Police Officer Willie Ragland explained to ticket holders.
“Tickets make no difference anymore,” Ragland said, adding that all ticketed areas had been full since 8:30 a.m.
“It seems kind of unfair,” said Jill Zipin, who was directed behind the barricades. “We have orange tickets, and there’s all that [empty] space over there for orange ticket holders.”
Some estimated the orange gates were closed for two hours before the traffic circle was opened up. Others were told the section was at capacity.
“Whoever was controlling how many people were in different areas didn’t properly assess whether they were full,” said Nicholas Miller of Detroit.
Alali acknowledged the problem but could not give an explanation. “We are striving to minimize inconveniences at all check points,” Alali said. “But any security effort of this magnitude will inevitably have unexpected delays.”
Law enforcement reported few other problems. Just before midnight on the eve of the inauguration, Alali said members of a group of about 50 anti-government protesters in Chinatown smashed windows at a bank and a Hooters restaurant and broke an ATM screen.
Crowd estimates ranged from 600,000 to 800,000 people Monday, compared with about 1.8 million in 2009, easing the way for most ticket holders.
“Security was actually excellent,” said Joel Parrish of New Jersey. “I think that D.C. was a little more ready this year than they were four years ago.”
Exiting the inauguration was much easier — at least until crowds reached the Metro lines that stretched outside stations.
Stations at L’Enfant Plaza, Federal Center SW, Foggy Bottom and Metro Center were all closed for a period of time because of crowding. Metro alerts continued to urge travelers to walk to a station on the same line as their destination, to avoid transferring or to avoid using the service at all. “Maybe you want to grab lunch before starting your return?” one tweet from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority suggested.
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Jill Zipin.