Politics

Seniors, Parents Piqued by Strict Inauguration Parade Rules

Tough rules have been instituted for individuals wanting to attend President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, forcing some to rethink their plans to come to the nation's capital on Jan. 20 for the historic oath of office of the nation's first black president.

Among other items, thermoses, coolers, silly string, backpacks and lawn chairs will be banned along the parade route. Those objects and strollers are also prohibited up on the Capitol, where Obama will be sworn into office at the West Front Capitol.

Officials say they are limiting the items to be brought in for safety reasons -- they don't want people bogged down if they need to clear an area. 

"The more you bring, the more difficult it's going to make your movement," said Sgt. Robert LaChance, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, which patrols the National Mall.

For those 240,000 people with the up-close tickets, umbrellas and posters will also be forbidden on the Capitol grounds, though they will be permitted along the parade route. Signs or placards must be made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and not larger than 3 feet by 20 feet.

People with seats further out on the Mall will endure more lax rules, but alcohol is prohibited as are glass bottles and no tents will be allowed. 

Of course, nowhere along the way will weapons, fireworks or pepper spray be allowed.

On the National Mall, people aren't required to have tickets though security will check them. The Secret Service is running security operations and hasn't said what the checks will entail.

"The ground rules for the Mall encourage the greatest number of participants and we've made it as welcoming as possible," said Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

When asked if specific items such as canes, walkers, lighters, matches and diaper bags would be prohibited from the parade route and the Capitol, authorities said they didn't know yet.

D.C. officials and the National Park Service are expecting anywhere from 1 million to 3 million people for the inauguration. They say the inconvenience is a small price to pay to witness history in the making. 

But some parenting blogs are abuzz with complaints about the less-than-kid-friendly restrictions. 

"Of course, they're not going to say, 'no children,'" said Sunny Chanel, a San Francisco-based contributor to Babble.com, a parenting Web site. "But they're definitely not making it easy for parents with smaller children to go."

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.

Additionally, Johnson said seven people, including families with young children, recently backed out -- losing their deposits -- because they're afraid they won't be able to maneuver in big crowds. 

Most people will be traveling to the city by bus or subway. Some estimates have suggested that if 1 million people try to ride the subway after the inauguration is over, it will take eight hours to move everyone, assuming everything runs smoothly. So area transportation officials are warning -- if you're coming, be prepared to walk a lot and wait even more. 

Metro service has already said it is charging rush hour rates for travel and bathrooms will be closed for security. The option left for parents wanting to change stinky diapers? Hundreds of porta-potties the transit system and park officials are providing downtown.

"It's truly scaring people," Johnson said. "The news is becoming more and more bleak."

Security will be tight in part because Obama has had more threats against him than any other president-elect in history. The inauguration has been designated a National Special Security Event, which means extra precautions will be taken. 

In all, security will include 4,000 police officers from other jurisdictions. Thousands of National Guardsmen for crowd control, air patrols and sharp shooters. More than 5,000 surveillance cameras will have been set up along with metal detectors, snipers, bomb sniffing dogs and undercover cops. 

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said no credible evidence has been received to suggest that a major terrorist plan is in the works, but they are looking at every possibility. 

"We're also looking at the possibility of a lone wolf. At that doesn't necessarily have to be a terrorist from Al Qaeda, it can be a right-wing, crazy nut who decides that they because of racism or some other reason they want to carry out an attack," he said.

While most people say they understand why some restrictions are needed, they're struggling with how to follow the rules and still function during such a large-scale event. Creativity may be key.

Lamar Tyler, of Waldorf, Md., who runs the Web site BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com with his wife, Ronnie, partnered with Orbitz to give away an "Inauguration Day survival pack" stuffed with a hat, Chapstick, gloves, wipes and small toys. If he ends up bringing his four kids, ages 10 months to 15 years, he may have to make his own pack.

"We're coming, but whether we bring the kids or not is still up in the air," he said.

Reena Johar, of Palo Alto, Calif., plans a trip to the Mall with the group she's leading from the West Coast. But she faces the backpack dilemma: If she carries one, no parade; if she doesn't, how will she carry water and snacks? Will plastic bags do?

"I'm very puzzled about the whole thing," she said. "We have to work this out ... This is a major challenge."

FOX News' Caroline Shively and The Associated Press contributed to this report.