Monday, December 22, 2008

No strollers near the Capitol. No tents on the Mall. None of that Silly String on the parade route.

That’s just a sample of the items forbidden for security reasons from President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Though many people say the inconvenience is a small price to pay to witness the swearing-in of the country’s first black president, others are trying to figure out how they will sit, snack, carry diapers or transport tired tots.

Some older people are backing out of their inaugural plans, partly because of a no-chair rule for the parade route. Parenting blogs are abuzz with complaints about the less-than-child -friendly restrictions. Thermoses, coolers and backpacks are out at the Capitol and the parade route.

“Of course, they’re not going to say, ‘no children,’” said Sunny Chanel, a contributor to, a parenting Web site. “But they’re definitely not making it easy for parents with smaller children to go.”

The tightest rules are reserved for the lucky 240,000 ticket holders, who get to sit closest to the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol. There are understandable prohibitions on weapons and pepper spray. But carrying an umbrella is also banned. And don’t think about holding up any “Yes We Did” signs, because posters also are not allowed.

It could get tricky as people congregate along the parade route, where many items allowed on the Mall will be off-limits. The list includes bicycles, backpacks, aerosols (which could include Silly String), coolers, thermal containers and chairs.

Signs or placards can be brought to the parade, but only if they’re made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and are not more than 3 feet by 20 feet.

Antron Johnson, who’s organizing an inauguration trip with three busloads of Obama supporters from Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., said he’s had about a dozen people, mostly elderly, who dropped out after learning about the parade’s no-chair policy.

He said an additional seven people, including families with young children, recently backed out over concerns about maneuvering in big crowds. Turnout estimates vary widely, with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty saying 2.5 million to 3 million people, and the National Park Service planning for at least 1 million.

Mr. Johnson said some people are worried about packed Metro trains now that officials are sounding warnings. Metro has said its bathrooms will be closed for security. The option left for parents wanting to change stinky diapers? Hundreds of portable toilets that the transit system and park officials are providing downtown.

The rules aren’t so strict on the Mall, where most people will end up because tickets aren’t required. Officials have said everyone will be checked, but they haven’t said what that will entail.

People won’t be able to see much, except what’s on Jumbotrons, but they can bring all sorts of stuff. Besides the obvious no-nos - firearms, explosives, fireworks - the only bans are on alcohol, tents and glass bottles.

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