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People got tired of trying to leave the city:
Cops could have used these:
“Three Million People Trapped On The Mall.” This was the headline my travelling companion had given the moment. She was sure it would be the headline of the day. Not Obama’s historic presidency. Not Obama’s speech. Not Michelle Obama’s dress. But the hell that was the mass exodus off the Mall.
If you wanted chaos, cops offering either lousy directives or attitude, and mobs of people pushing in all directions then you had a good time. For everyone else, it just sucked.
If you thought memorizing the inauguration map made you safe—-you were wrong. When we arrived at our first idea of an out—the 3rd Street tunnel, cops said it was closed. It may have opened at some point. But not for us and thousands of others. If you bothered to ask the cops for an explanation, the cops weren’t interested.
There was one case where I can’t blame the cops for giving the cold shoulder. One guy at 3rd and Independence asked: “Where’s the parade at?” Some people should have studied up before this morning!
So we decided to head west on Independence. Any spot near a metro was a total standstill. Gridlock. Hell. Whatever you want to call it. The cop to people ratio was like 1 to 5,000. All cops we talked to either didn’t know where anything was or could not explain why a street was closed. If you thought the cops would do some kind of traffic control, forget it. Old ladies w/ canes—-they were on their own. Etc.
Trouble spots: Anywhere east of 17th and Independence. Pick an intersection and there was a mass of people without a clue, shoving each other.
The worst was 12th and Independence. It took at least a half hour to go around that trouble spot. This is when I started to chronicle our journey.
We ran up this hill:
We found this:
We faced this crowd:
This became part of our route home (and a lot of other people’s way out):
And then we found more of this:
This was basically our attempt to get around 12th and Independence. After finally escaping, we eventually made our to 18th and E Streets NW. Eighteenth Street was a mess: buses idling with throngs of people, cars trying to drive through the throngs of people. That was nice.
When people started to question why we couldn’t walk down E Street toward a less crowded 19th Street, we were told that was not allowed. Then we were threatened with pepper spray by a National Guard Army guy. He claimed he would get the D.C. cops on us, that they have pepper spray. “Soldiers man your positions!” he shouted. This was not change we can believe in. This was Bush-era IMF Protest stuff.
These guys were just not very helpful no matter how many times you asked for directions to the nearest metro or whether say a street was open or not. DCist noticed this as well. Chances are they didn’t know. Next time: Officials needs to give these guys maps. And give the D.C. Police more help, guidance, and, well, maps. Also, the much vaunted Presidential Inaugural Committee volunteers were AWOL. It seemed once Obama’s speech was over, they too were left to fend for themselves.
These guys had the ability of killing all hope.
When we reached the Washington Monument, we finally saw daylight. There were still more big crowds up ahead and nasty Army and police types. But we were almost home. We set out for the Mall at 3:45 a.m. and made it back to our Mount Pleasant home at 3:10 p.m.
We passed one last crowd at the Dupont Circle metro: