WASHINGTON — The hundreds of thousands of spectators at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration encountered strict security screening Monday, slow-moving lines at checkpoints and a packed National Mall. But while some inauguration-goers complained of being stalled in getting into the swearing-in ceremony, or in accessing public transit, law enforcement authorities reported no major security problems from a crowd that appeared smaller than the record-breaking turnout of 2009.
“There was a lot of lessons learned brought into this one and a lot of pre-planning,” said Chris Geldart, director of the District of Columbia’s homeland security and emergency management agency. “I think it went as good as it could go.”
Heightened security was evident throughout the nation’s capital, from police officers stationed inside subway stations and on street corners to military Humvees that blocked downtown intersections. Spectators navigated through street closures, checkpoints that screened for a wide range of prohibited items, and demonstrators for varied causes. Flight restrictions were in place above Washington and more than 2,000 out-of-town officers were sworn in to work security.
There was no official crowd tally Monday night, but Geldart said it was “definitely above 800,000” and possibly up to 1 million — a large turnout, though still smaller than the 1.8 million who packed the mall for President Barack Obama’s first swearing-in ceremony.
Officials had hoped that more signs, plus additional metal detectors, would ease pedestrian congestion and reduce some of the logistical snafus from four years ago.