Several thousand people were evacuated from Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium yesterday after authorities received a bomb threat during a band competition, officials said. The stadium was searched, but no bomb was found.
D.C. police said that everyone was ordered to leave the Battle of the Bands competition after a telephoned bomb threat was received about 5 p.m.
D.C. police Officer Joshua Strassman directs Battle of the Bands participants and spectators from RFK Stadium.
(Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
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The evacuation appeared to be one of the largest in the Washington area during the period of heightened security alertness that has followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Mark H. Tuohey III, director of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which runs the stadium, said two calls were received shortly after the concert began, saying that there was to be "some kind of bomb detonation" inside the facility. The calls, he said, were "apparently traced to people inside" RFK.
Tuohey said stadium authorities and police decided it would be "too risky" to search with the crowd inside.
"You don't take those chances with that many people," he said.
Tuohey said officials are to discuss today whether to reschedule the event.
Witnesses said most of the bands -- totaling about 15 school and college marching units from the District and Maryland -- had yet to perform when a public address announcement ordered the evacuation.
Resplendent in brightly colored uniforms, carrying flags and banners and gleaming brass instruments, band members joined spectators in reactions that included dejection, resignation and bewilderment.
"This is crazy," said spectator Marjorie Gleaton, 40, of Northeast Washington as she waited for a Metrobus to take her home.
"People are just trying to have a good time," she said of the crowd.
Herman Snyder of Fort Washington, whose daughter Mercedes plays flute in the Friendly High School band, said spectators were not told why they had to leave.
"They didn't give us any explanation -- just to get out," he said. According to witnesses, news of the threat came only by word of mouth and from encounters with arriving police officers.
Friendly's band had played, Snyder said, but the competition, which was scheduled to start at 4 p.m., was far from over. "There was a lot more to go," he said. "I didn't get my money's worth."