I held a valued and hard-to-get ticket to the purple section of the Capitol Inaugural viewing area. Standing room, but still a historic and privileged vantage point. Here is what I saw:
Thousands of purple ticket holders, including me, never got in. Never got close. The security gate was closed long after it was to have opened, it could not handle the number of people who had tickets and who got there in time, even though organizers knew exactly how many people were given tickets and how long it should take them to clear security.
But there were no cops, no volunteers, no signage, no crowd control. Organizers, whom we will get to in a moment, apparently thought everyone would come by getting off the same subway stop and march like ants down one street toward the gate. As a result of poor signage, thousands were in the line who had no tickets but thought it was the place to go to gain general admission to the Mall.
From ground level, even at 6’-2” level, the only markings were huge purple signs that said “Purple Gate.” But they gave no indication of where the line was supposed to start, finish or snake into the equivalent of an airport security station.
No cops, no volunteers, no signage, no crowd control. People had come from all over the country and contrary to the snot nosed replies the police gave, nobody got there late. Friends with tickets in another section on the other side of the mall, maybe three-quarters of a mile away, got to their security checkpoint at and were in place in a few minutes.
The frustration was not incompetence but not knowing where to go. From ground level, even at 6’-2” level, the only markings were huge purple signs that said “Purple Gate.” But they gave no indication of where the line was supposed to start, finish or snake into the equivalent of an airport security station. We were stuck at the building of the National Association of Letter Carriers – and some of us were ready to go postal.
People were chanting “let us in” and if this were not a decent crowd of Obama supporters, there would have been a riot. Sure, some, including the infirm and infant, would have been hurt, but thousands of people storming the 12-foot fencing between the street and the security checkpoint could have overtaken either the Secret Service -- or the news.
Now, maybe I was lucky standing for three and a half hours going nowhere in 20-degree weather, because other purple ticket holders were – if you can believe this – told to stand in a tunnel, where like good little Germans stood claustrophobic and freezing for hours.
This was an outrage worthy of local governments. This was an outrage of Bushian proportions. This was an abomination for the Obama nation. I have been to inaugurals and I live nearby. But there were thousands who came from all over the country for this event and got there on time, who did what they were supposed to do but were foiled by the U.S. Secret Service and the real villain of this piece, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Why her? This former
Dianne Feinstein, the Secret Service and God knows who else fucked this up so badly “Purplegate” will make Watergate a fond memory in the annals of government stupidity.
On the way back, I kept thinking that Dan White shot the wrong supervisor.
For new details, including the kind of comment from the Senate sergeant-at-arms that should get him fired by tomorrow, see the Washington Post article.