Supporters face long lines, tight security

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DENVER | The Democrats’ rendezvous with destiny came only after long waits in long lines and a slow slog through an obstacle course of narrow sidewalks, muddy potholes, steel fences, security barriers, the occasional cackling protesters, overworked security guards and overflowing checkpoints.

On a sun-splashed Rocky Mountain August day, tens of thousands of Democratic delegates, journalists and supporters jammed into Denver’s Invesco Field to hear their new champion, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, accept the party’s nomination and become the first black presidential nominee of a major political party.

But the simple logistics of getting in the door put a strain on the festivities. The road to history was hardly paved with political gold. It was more like a rocky construction site.

Some tried to beat the crowd, enduring a full day of bright Colorado sunshine to ensure a seat for Mr. Obama’s evening address.

Denver-area music teachers Kristen Schacht and Beth Schoening took the day off, arriving at 9 a.m. for a speech that would start nearly 12 hours later.

“We want to be first,” said Miss Schacht, shielding her eyes from the fierce midday sun.

“It was worth it,” added Miss. Schoening. “I feel we are witnessing history.”

Many in the crowd pointed to the significance of the speech falling on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Lonnie M. Randolph, a state senator-elect from Indiana, said Mr. Obama’s nomination proved how far the nation has come since that August 1963 day.

“It’s an evening leading to the culmination of the dream Dr. King had 45 years ago,” Mr. Randolph said.

But the extraordinary security surrounding the event - held a mile from the convention hall where Democratic delegates officially nominated Mr. Obama Wednesday evening - proved trying at times for the vast throngs. Pro football’s Denver Broncos play at the stadium and regularly handle sellout crowds and lots full of tailgating fans.

But security officials shut off many of the entrances used by football fans, creating a crush of humanity lined up in columns several football-fields long outside the gates.

“We normally can fill this stadium with 70,000 people in just an hour or two when the Broncos play. Tonight, it will take two to three times that,” said one Denver police officer standing guard outside the stadium, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Mr. Obama got his open-air address, cooperative weather and a dramatic column-lined backdrop, but convenience for his audience was forced to take a back seat.

Still, hopeful Democrats tried to make the best of it as they waited for the show to begin.

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