City Desk

At the March on Washington, Tales From the Security Line

The security "line" at the March On Washington Thursday

The security "line" at the March On Washington Thursday

The garbled words of something important-sounding could be heard from the soppy stretch of grass between the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial earlier today, as thousands of people waited to cram through about a dozen security stations to get closer to the Lincoln Memorial, where three presidents and Oprah spoke on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

In the early afternoon, the security line wasn't so much a line as it was "a mass of people moving toward a similar location," as one U.S. Park Police officer described it to a group of incredulous people asking if they were standing in a line.

After waiting unsuccessfully, many people opted to stay behind, taking in the moment and listening to the fuzzy-sounding cadences of the faraway speakers.

"I'm 36 years old, this is enough for me to just be a part of it," said Mecca Rasheed, a postal worker who tried to catch a glimpse of the speeches during her lunch break. "I can share this with my daughter."

Andrew Thompson, 66, waited in the security line in the rain for nearly an hour and a half, but passed out when he was about 30 yards away from the end zone. He was hydrating and recovering nicely soon after, but said he would probably search for celebrities like Oprah instead of trying to go back in.

Three Australian women in D.C. for a few days didn't even try to get through the crowd, selflessly saying that they didn't want to take the place of any Americans. "We wanted Americans to get the spots," said Melanie Rowe of Melbourne, Australia. "This seems like such an American moment."

The three Australian women who selflessly gave up their spots in line for Americans.

The Australians weren't disappointed, though, and said they were excited  they got to "vaguely" hear a performance of "Amazing Grace."

Malcolm Drewery, 70, made it all the way to the base of the Lincoln Memorial—50 years ago at the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

"As far as I know security wasn't the way it is now," Drewery said, as he sat on the lawn in a rain jacket. He said that if the lines cleared up, he planned to try to get close to the Lincoln Memorial. "I understand there's some good speeches going on here."

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  • Corky

    The absence of any sound system towards the back of the reflecting pool was a major oversight. It was just as disappointing on Saturday. Did they think everyone could get within 100 yards of the Lincoln Memorial?

  • Bethesda Dunn Loring

    it would be hard to find such utter incompetency anywhere else. Mark thompson is no Bayard Rustin that is for sure.

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  • Typical DC BS

    Ah yes, security stupidity overcoming common sense again at the mall. Same idiocy that has kept E Street past the White House closed down since the Oklahoma City bombings - even though the chance of damage to the White House is minimal in ANY bombing scenario.

    The Secret Service needs to be overruled more frequently.

  • nedwin

    What pitiful planning... The security was tighter than on the inaugural. No tv monitors or speakers for all the people who couldn't get in. Why on earth was there one entry for tens of thousands of people? Park Police really dropped the ball on this.