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Checkpoint choke point: Long waits cause frustration at security station for March on Washington
Tens of thousands of people gathered on Wednesday for an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, many of them waiting for hours to pass through a sole security checkpoint providing access to the Mall.
Nine metal detectors were deployed to screen the audience for the “Let Freedom Ring” commemoration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, causing massive bottlenecks and frustrating crowds that at times chanted angrily to speed the security process.
Lenny Segel, 60, from Detroit, got in line at about 10:30 a.m. He entered the event just after 1 p.m. and noted the large number of older people who had to stand and wait for long periods of time.
“It was a total disaster for whoever set it up,” he said. “As great a march as this could have been, unfortunately it has become awful for a lot of people.”
Officials said temperatures in the high 80s led to heat-related illnesses and a number of people reportedly fainted. The D.C. Fire Department provided medical assistance to more than 100 people and transported seven people to hospitals. Most ailments were heat-related, department spokesman Oscar Mendez said.
“We are aware of the delays and are working diligently to process people as quickly as possible through the checkpoints,” he said.
Security personnel eventually added additional magnetometers and opened other entry points at which they conducted bag checks and operated hand-held metal detector wands.
Once inside, the mood improved.
“I thought it was special, wonderful,” said Mr. Van Ware of Silver Spring. “It was just as pleasant.”
Ms. Holst, who lives in Columbia, Md., described the speeches as “moving.”
Nancy Lee, 74, of Fort Washington recalled the march half a century ago and said she was proud to also attend the event Wednesday.
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About the Author
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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