Authorities are organizing what appears to be the largest security operation ever for an inauguration, bringing in thousands of extra police, agents and troops to handle crowds as President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in.
Security officials are bracing not just for the ceremony and parade Jan. 20 but also for at least 70 concerts, balls and other events surrounding the inauguration. Those include the welcome celebration featuring Obama on Jan. 18 at the Lincoln Memorial, which could draw 500,000 people, according to the D.C. mayor’s office.
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
“You’ve gone from a one-day event to a four-day event,” said Joseph Persichini Jr., head of the FBI‘s Washington Field Office, which will bring in about 20 percent more employees than usual for the activities.
The expected record throngs pose daunting challenges to police. The U.S. Park Police, for example, typically check the bags of the half-million or so people at the annual Fourth of July celebration on the Mall. But with potentially 2 million people wrapped in bulky coats and blankets pouring onto the Mall for Obama’s swearing-in, stretching to the Lincoln Memorial, police decided that it would take too long to funnel them through checkpoints.
Instead, Park Police are relying on a massive security force, including 1,300 unarmed National Guard soldiers, to detect problems. It is the first time in recent history that Park Police have sought military help at an inauguration, according to Chief Sal Lauro.
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