Unprecedented security as US prepares for Obama inauguration
Washington (PTI): With an estimated two million people likely to attend the historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, authorities here are facing a logistical challenge to put in place fool-proof security arrangements for the January 20 event.
Unprecedented security is being put in place in the US capital as it gears up for the inauguration of its first black President, with police in riot gear and military troops patrolling the streets.
Washington's Metropolitan Police Department, aided by 96 departments nationwide, will double its force from 4,000 to 8,000 officers for the inauguration - 1,000 more than were on hand in 2004. The city has blocked off 3.5 square miles downtown for Inauguration Day, a larger area than in the past, the MSNBC channel reported.
Police would also shut bridges across the Potomac River into Washington, along with a huge chunk of downtown DC.
A heavily armored Cadillac limousine, bullet-resistant glass, fighter planes overhead and Secret Service SWAT teams toting automatic weapons are other highlights of the security preparedness for the swearing-in ceremony of US' first African American President.
The Department of Homeland Security has designated the inauguration a 'National Special Security Event' as the mammoth size of crowds poses a logistical challenge to city planners and security agencies.
While bridges from Virginia into Washington would be closed to public traffic, more than 100 Virginia State Police officers will be in the capital.
"We always plan for the worst and hope for the best," the news organisation quoted Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller as saying.
It said with the exception of buses, limos and emergency vehicles, traffic would not be permitted on two of the biggest arteries into Washington - Interstate 395 North and Interstate 66 East.
With the security measures expected to prevent easy movement in town, police has advised visitors to arrive by train, cautioning those walking to the event to brace for a long day of standing.
Those who cannot stand for six hours should consider skipping the event, security officials said adding they should also brace for up to a three-hour wait to get through security checkpoints before Obama's noontime oath and address. An estimated 13,000 National Guardsmen are expected to be on the National Mall for Inauguration Day, MSNBC added.
The US media is galore with do's and dont's for the Inauguration Day, including information of items prohibited to be carried to the site and use of cellphone. While prohibited items include firearms, ammunition, backpacks, bicycles, suitcases, strollers and umbrellas, signs and posters too are not allowed.
Security officials have recommended people communicate through text messages as cell phone lines are expected to be jammed that day.