Report Explains Problems, Lists Suggestions for Future Inaugurations

Posted March 23, 2009 at 1:56pm

Unprecedented crowds, conflicting plans and a “lack of crowd management tools— contributed to hundreds of ticket holders being shut out of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, according to a report released Monday by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked the Secret Service to complete the report after several Members complained that officials prematurely closed the entrances to the blue and purple viewing sections — two coveted spaces on the Capitol’s West Front.

Hundreds of ticket-holding constituents never made it to their sections, and many described the scene as chaotic. At one point, officials directed thousands of people to the Third Street tunnel, where they waited fruitlessly for hours.

The Secret Service worked with other law enforcement agencies, such as the Capitol Police, to complete the report, which makes more than a dozen recommendations. Among them: List a Web site and toll-free number on all tickets to provide up-to-date information; put up better signage; install informational kiosks; and create a Crowd Management Subcommittee.

Many of the recommendations focus on ways to ensure that only ticket holders stand in line for the inauguration’s ticketed sections.

Many of the problems at Obama’s inauguration happened because officers had to sort through thousands of people who didn’t have tickets, according to a summary of the report.

As for the stagnant line in the Third Street tunnel, the report attributes the problem the absence of signs or barricades prohibiting people from entering the tunnel and a limited law enforcement presence in the tunnel. It also confirms that several officers directed people into the northbound tunnel to “ease a dangerous overcrowding situation.—

The report suggests that JCCIC and the Presidential Inaugural Committee help with crowd management by using volunteers to pre-screen tickets and help visitors with directions. In the past, law enforcement agencies have taken on the full responsibility.

In a statement, Feinstein called the inauguration an overall “success,— but added that “thousands of people— contacted the committee with concerns about their inability to get into their ticketed area.

“While this review cannot change what happened, and may not satisfy all of those who were shut out of the event, it does provide a good assessment of both the successes and deficiencies of the planning for 2009,— she said. “It also uses the lessons of 2009 to provide important and thoughtful guidance for the next inaugural planners.—