- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 2, 2002

The National Park Service is putting about 10 miles of wood-slatted snow fences around the Mall to secure the area against unspecified terrorist threats during Fourth of July festivities.
Two fences, spaced about 15 to 20 feet apart, are being erected around the Mall to prevent a terrorist outside the area from handing harmful materials to someone inside the inner fence, said Sgt. Scott Fear of the U.S. Park Police, which is coordinating security measures for Thursday's events.
Officials yesterday said thousands of celebrants will be allowed onto the Mall through 24 checkpoints, where their personal items will be inspected to ensure they aren't carrying weapons, alcohol, firecrackers, grills, glass bottles and other dangerous items.
"Most everything will be allowed. We just want to look at it," said David Barna, a spokesman for the National Park Service.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the annual Fourth of July concert and fireworks display on the Mall, even though the FBI has warned that terrorists might strike during Independence Day celebrations because of the large crowds and the patriotic significance of the day. Police have received no specific threats.
"We expect to have a crowd as large as last year's, and we wouldn't be surprised if it would be larger due to the patriotism that has swept the nation since September 11," Sgt. Fear said.
About 2,500 police officers from various jurisdictions will be on duty in uniform and in plainclothes to patrol the area and nab those trying to avoid the checkpoints, said Lt. Dan Nichols, spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Police. Officers using metal-detecting wands will search some people.
Checkpoints around the Mall will open at 10 a.m. Thursday. Checkpoints around the Capitol, where crowds will gather for the concert, will open at 2:30 p.m.
A parade on Constitution Avenue NW will begin at 11:45 a.m., followed by a concert by the National Symphony on the Capitol's West Lawn at 8 p.m. and the fireworks display around the Washington Monument at 9:10 p.m.
Fifteenth and 17th streets, which cross the Mall, will be closed, as will 23rd Street. Boats on the Potomac River, which in the past brought onlookers close to the fireworks, will be kept 200 feet from the D.C. shore.
The Smithsonian Metro Station will be closed Thursday, and Metro Police Chief Polly Hanson said officers will be on patrol there and at other subway stops near the Mall.
Many people on the Mall yesterday said they were not discouraged by the security measures or worried about terrorist threats.
"We came last year, and are not really concerned this year. We just want to know where we can go, where we can get in," said Capitol Hill resident Meghan Pauliny. "We live nine blocks from the Capitol, so the Fourth is really just like any other day."
"The extra threat doesn't really faze me," said Zina Hoes, a Montgomery County resident. "If you're from this area, you have that threat anyway."
Ed Mountfield of Mount Pleasant, who was on the Mall with his 18-month-old son, said he probably won't attend because of the crowds, not because of any threats. "The chances of [terrorism] affecting you are so small. You are as likely to get blown up anywhere else in the city."
Rhonda Snoeyeabos of Arlington said she was going to watch the festivities from Fort Myer, as she has done most years. "You feel pretty safe there."
In Fairfax, about 35,000 people are expected for the 36th annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks show. Police spokeswoman Courtney Young said officers will patrol from motorcycles, bicycles and cars during the event. Auxiliary officers are being called to help with traffic control.
There will be "a little more increased patrol than we would have normally done," Officer Young said.
Leslie Herman, organizer of the Fairfax event, said there were no plans to cut back on the fireworks display because of dry conditions.
In addition, security will be tighter at Monticello, where 74 persons from 33 countries will become American citizens in an annual naturalization ceremony.
"We are taking the prudent steps necessary to ensure a safe and secure environment on that day," said Monticello spokesman Wayne Mogielnicki.
The FBI has issued a law-enforcement bulletin asking police to be on heightened alert even though no specific intelligence suggests an attack. The bureau is requiring its 56 field offices to create plans for monitoring events in their regions. The monitoring probably will include several forms of electronic surveillance, as well as a heavy presence of field agents, both uniformed and undercover, officials said.
"The more we change our lifestyle, the more freedoms we sacrifice," said Darla Silva, a Montgomery County resident.
Mrs. Silva said that 10 months ago her reaction to the threats might have been less muted.
"Right after September 11, there was this sense of heightened alertness and anxiety," she said. "But you can't keep that up for this long it's exhausting."
One area resident said she had changed her plans, that "all of the pretalk" had persuaded her to stay home and watch the celebration on television.
"We came down today to avoid the Fourth. I used to live here, but it just didn't seem worth the extra risk," said Paul Strickler of Boyne City, Mich., who was here on vacation.
Larry Patrick of Leesburg said he hadn't decided what he was going to do.
"That could happen in Leesburg. Some radicals could come in and destroy things, hurt people. It could happen anywhere," Mr. Patrick said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide