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So near inauguration, but forced to listen by phone

A group of people who didn't get in to the inauguration listen to President Obama's speech on a cell phone.
MinnPost photo by Judith Yates Borger
A group of people who didn’t get in to the inauguration listen to President Obama’s speech on a cell phone.

The first test of the new government’s ability to include all people failed this morning when hundreds of thousands, who had tickets, met closed gates to the inauguration.

Despite lack of information about where to go, or what to do, the Americans who wanted to get into the National Mall to see President Barack Obama were polite, courteous, patient and joyful.

Citizens who got their tickets after an hour’s wait Monday in 20-degree temperatures through Sen. Amy Klobuchar were at first buoyed by the location they were assigned, the southwest corner close to the front of the Capitol. The tickets said the gates would open at 9 a.m. and urged people to show up early. But those who were there at 8 a.m. were out of luck at 11:50, when the gates to the mall were closed before they got in. A banner over the security checkpoint and one or two posterboard signs directed ticketholders to the appropriate gate. Otherwise, there was no direction. I got there at 8 a.m. and didn’t see a police officer or anyone to direct the crowd until almost noon. Half a dozen people moving in any one direction was enough to start a line, led by people who had no idea where they were going.

Sen. Klobuchar’s press secretary said the senator gave out about 550 tickets. He declined to say any more because her office has no knowledge about security matters. 

Occasionally the crowd’s frustration erupted in chants of “What’s going on?” and “We’re fired up. We’re ready to go.” But those faded out quickly.

In the end, people pressed their noses quietly to the metal gates and listened. At the boom of cannons people knew Obama had taken office and burst into shouts and applause. Then, we could hear the echo of his voice, but it was very difficult to make out exactly what he was saying in his inauguration speech.

But some in the crowd found an answer. People gathered around a woman who held her cell phone high for all to hear as her sister-in-law placed her home phone next to her television.

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