Spectators gathered in half-formed lines at the D.C. Police security checkpoint at E and 14 Streets, hours before the inaugural parade on Monday.
They shuffled in place and rubbed their gloved hands together to fend off the chill. A man walked up and down the line selling hand-warming packets that heated up when squeezed in the fist.
As the lines approached the checkpoint, they became more orderly. Prohibited items were posted on yellow signs in black type: no weapons of any kind, no surprise there, but also bicycles and no backpacks.
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Officers scanned people with radiation detectors as they stepped into the checkpoint. Small bags were checked, metal items removed from pockets, and bodies scanned with security wands.
Posters with the iconic red, white and blue image of President Barack Obama were free for the taking from boxes in front of the tables where people were laying out their personal items for inspection.
On the other side of the checkpoint, people gathered along the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue with those without tickets for the bleachers jockeying for the best vantage points, some lying on the ground to hold their positions.
Volunteers roamed around in red beanies -- some were boy scouts, some girl scouts, others adults who just wanted to be a part of the experience.
Garrett Milo, 11, was there with Boy Scout Troop 291 from North Potomac, Md. He had gotten up at 3:00 a.m. to head over to his post. His task was to help people with disabilities get to their seats for the parade.
“We’re keeping spirits up and keeping people safe,” he said. “It feels good, like I’m actually a part of something.”
This would be his first time to attend a presidential inauguration.
Sara Sloan was there to get out a message, organizing for the group Answer Coalition.
“Today is also MLK Day. We’re here to promote his fundamental message of ‘jobs not war,’ Sloan said.
“Rather than the billions we spend on funding the military-industrial complex, we want to see that money go toward creating jobs, funding education and health care.”
Sloan expressed disappointment with the Obama administration, particularly over military spending and drone warfare.
“They haven’t lived up to what they promised a lot of people who put them in office,” she said.
Sloan and her colleagues prepared signs to hand out, condemning militarism but leaving the president’s name out of it. One set of signs targeted a former president, however. “Indict Bush Now,” it read.
Charita Brent, a D.C. resident, sat in the bleachers overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. She had purchased a $25 ticket and was looking forward to watching the parade, which she missed four years go when she was working as a volunteer during the first inaugural address.
“Now I’m just here to enjoy the show. I want to support the president however I can,” Brent said. Coming to the parade on Martin Luther King Day -- it couldn’t have happened on a better day.”
Brent would not get to watch the inaugural address in person, but she made sure to download an app on her phone that would stream it live.
“This is great; I can see everything this time,” she said.
As the president’s voice boomed out of the speakers lining the parade route, taking the oath of office for a second time, Brent looked to the small screen in her hand.