Heightened Security, Washington D.C.
I did not realise that you cannot take any photographs inside the Metro anywhere. I found the architecture fabulous and I am sure I have seen it in a movie but be warned the Metro police will be on you in a minute if you snap any of the Metro but did nt really see any warning signs?
ChinaTown not good to be there just as its getting dark - even coming out of the MCI areana be careful particularly if you are female doesnt matter if there are a bunch of you watch your handbags and take a taxi from the MCI to your hotel !!!!
This, being the first inaugural since the 11 September 2001 disasters, security was said to be tighter than Kirstie Alley (a festively plump actress) in Spandex. I have already gone over the detours and roadblocks, but those with tickets to the inaugural ceremony had to undergo security scrutiny that was reputed to be tough. Backpacks, larger bags, and a few common sense things were prohibited (where they were permitted before), but, really, security scrutiny at the entrance tent was no worse than that undergone at the airport at that point in time. The included photo does not show the security tent itself for obvious reasons- just the sign for my allocated area.
At first glance from the included photo of the Metrobus, you would think this should be a transportation tip. However, said Metrobus was used to block off a road near the MCI Centre, which I later found out was the site of one of the inaugural balls.
Detours and roadblocks don't only occur in Washington on Inauguration Day, but oftentimes, motorcades of visiting foreign dignitaries and other VIPs can cause these inconveniences. However, Inauguration Day has things out of kilter for a longer period of time.
For 20 January 2005, certain key roads were cordoned off and two metro stations Archives and Smithsonian were completely closed for hours on end for just security reasons. I guess folks who live here are able to take inaugurations and the occasional motorcade in stride, but it makes it tough to organise a VT meeting.
For the inauguration and other high-level Washington events, various agencies in the Department of Homeland Security station sharpshooters atop buildings adjacent to the parade route. For every one you can see, there may be as many as 5 you can't. I missed this, but I hear some of the more rowdy protesters threw grapefruits and snowballs at the presidential limousine, actually denting the paint job. Luckily, it only caused the president a Maaco (auto body refinishing shop) moment and, from the point of view of the protesters, the sharpshooters didn't feel the need to react in a way they know best. Some of them were arrested, however.
As you probably know, gun ownership is regarded as one of basic human and civilian rights by most Americans. I was talking a bit about it with a local waiter in Gergetown's restaurant who complained about inefficient and let me quote him "silly gun control introduced in DC by US Congress against its citizens, the law enforced despite negatibe opinion of local city council and despite the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Let me explain. Handguns had been outlawed, carrying guns (concealed or not) was prohibited, and all guns and ammunition had to be registered in DC. So, leave your handgun at home whenever you travel to Washington, DC unless you want to be arrested. There are a lot of various armed forces in downtown DC including federal, capitol police, Smithsonian museum guards and others.
I noticed in DC that the topic of gun rights and gun control arouses strong emotions in DC. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." It's still debated whether that gun control in DC and ban on handguns is a violation of the 2nd Amendment protections on bearing arms. I don't know.
The easiest way to find out is to carry your hand gun around and get arrested. Once arrested you go to trial. Well, it will have to be more than one trial if you are convicted. You will have to "appeal" your case all the way up to The Supreme Court - that is the court that interprets the Constitution and it has the final word on interpretation of all laws and of the Constitution itself. Any volunteers? :-)
Anyway, I can easily agree with my interlocutor that strict gun control laws in DC can't be effective as it is relatively easy to obtain guns in neighboring states (and maybe in DC as well :-) with laxer gun control laws, especially Virginia. Indeed, the ban itself didn't lower high levels of gun violence in DC.
I took pictures of various federal buildings but in front of the FBI building I asked a policemen whether I could take pictures. And in case of that building I do recommend to do it to avoid possible problems. The policeman who stood in front of the Department of Justice entrance, on the corner of Pennsylvania Ave, and 9th St. asked us not to stay too long with a camera pointed at one place. Well, the whole area around is monitored by spy cameras. No wonder, this building has been playing the key role in fighting terrorism since September 11, 2001.
Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack in Arlington just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington, DC, security has been heightened in Washington. From a visitor's point of view it has some advantages like lowering high crime rate in DC and better feeling of personal safety day and night. However the heightened security means some inconveniences for a visitor as well.
First of all whebever you want to enter any museum including all Smithsonian museums and the Holocaust museum or any federal building including the Capitol Building (guided Capitol Tour) and the Supreme Court building be prepared for speedy hand-check of all bags, briefcases, purses and containersand you bring and for usual pass through metal detectors. Keep smiling, stay in a line to security check-up and don't bring items forbidden not to slow the proceedings. Keep in mind that, like in US airports, there are no public checkrooms or lockers to leave the unwanted items and luggage.
The rules and list of forbidden items not allowed to bring vary a bit from place to place. Do not bring:
- bag lunches
- alcoholic beverages
- any sharp items (including any knives, screwdrivers, scissors, nail files, corkscrews etc.)
- pepper spray, and Mace (generally any aerosol containers)
- tripods (unless you get a permission)
Size of luggage: "large daypacks, backpacks or luggage" is not allowed (no umbrellas for example), to the Capitol Building any bag larger than 14" wide x 13" high x 4" deep is prohibited. Urszula had to keep her small city backpack in hand to enter some museum as it's not allowed to carry anything on the back.
Food and water: small plastic bottles of water are accepted unless they are open but NO bottles in case of the Capitol Tour. No tins, cans. Details here
Look, I know you've got the children in tow, and you need a bag to carry their jacket, pair of shoes, and food. Just remember that post 9/11, every bag is searched -- including purses, fannypacks, and backpacks.
Consider leaving this stuff at home if you're going into the Smithsonian Museums, and if you're going to the White House or Capital Building, definitely leave it behind.
It is really better to walk and ride around DC. Between poor parking, motorcades, unexpected road blocks and permanently closed to traffic streets ...... getting around is tough for the driver.
I did notice a few cars entering and leaving a section of La Fayette square that is supposedly closed to traffic. So I stayed to see how it was done with those big metal poles in the way. I then saw them lower, and raise again after the approved vehicle had passed through. Reminded me of similar pilons I saw on the pedestrian streets of Amsterdam.
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence of fear." Mark Twain
Just a friendly warning to let you know that since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York, security has been "beefed up" here in Washington. You will need a government issued photo ID to enter some office buildings, most public buildings, and some entertainment facilities.
When visiting memorials and public buildings, you are prohibited from carrying aerosol and non-aerosol sprays, cans and bottles, food, knives of any sort, (or other sharp objects), and large backpacks are forbidden. Purses and backpacks and packages will be searched.
Because of this "clampdown", Whitehouse Tours are now limited to school groups, veterans groups, and school-age groups. And, these tours must be requested by writing your congressperson (U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515) or senator (U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510).
The Permanent Exhibition of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum requires advance planning. You may reserve tickets through ProTix (800/400-9373) up to 3 months in advance. (small fee) At the 14th Street entrance of the museum you may pick up your tickets at "Will Call".
The only area of the State Department open to visitors is the Diplomatic Reception Rooms on guided tours and only if you make reservations in advance. No walk-ins or standbys!
The newly facelifted Washington Monument has a limited number of set-time tickets for those who called way in advance (small fee). But free tickets are given away on a first-come basis each day beginning at 8 am.
The police are every where as you could imagine, but this guy was tucked in like a tick. You do have a sence of being safe with all police presence. We felt very safe at the festival the whole time. When you did ask them for directions they were very nice and helpful. So this really isn't a warning unless your a crook or pickpocket, so if your on the up & up you will have no issues.
If you want to take any pictures of the FBI building be sure to check with the security people around the building to make sure it is ok to do so.
A French guy from the Hostel i was staying at took a couple of pictures of the FBI building and was followed by a couple of agents for two hours before being interrogated by them!!
Those considering a visit to DC shouldn't be disuaded by hightened surcurity. Most sites remain open for tours and few public places close their doors during an orange alert.
The White House is open for tours, but the tours need to be booked through your Congressman/woman's office.
Capitol Tours: You can get two types of tours of the U.S. Capital.
The first is a public tour. For this tour you can pick up tickets at the foot of the Capital Building. (Look for the Tent)
The second, better tours can be booked through your Congressman/woman's office. Most office will take consituents on a private tour of the capital if time permits.
After the plane attacks and the anthrax attackes you'll notice more security and lots of metal detectors, but the city and its sights remain open for business.
Be open to searches. Dont carry too much baggage it will slow you down at security.
I took my digital camera, thank you terrorists...I love my camera but it had to be checked more than once, not to mention my cell phone, middle aged women shouldn't look suspicious, but these gadgets do now.
I lived in Dc in the 80's, there are these ugly chicken wire fences everywhere, I dont mind the planters in front of the buildings, but the fences I didn't expect, and they destroy some of the ambiance of the city.
Don't let people scare you about Washington. I haven't had any problems (knock on wood) since I have lived here. In my experience, trouble seems to find first those people actively looking for it. That being said, just proceeding with a little common sense will pretty much ensure that your visit to Washington is not only a enjoyable one, but extremely memorable.