Archive for Friday, January 16, 2009

Don’t bring chairs, strollers to inauguration

January 16, 2009

— No strollers near the 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 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 will sit, snack, carry diapers or transport tired tots.

Some older people 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 Jan. 20 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 3 feet by 20 feet.

Antron Johnson, who’s organizing an inauguration trip with three busloads of Obama supporters from Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., said he’s had about a dozen people, mostly elderly, who dropped 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 M. Fenty saying 2.5 million to 3 million people are a possibility and the National Park Service planning for at least 1 million.

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