Security Stepped Up for July 4

The fireworks display is one of the highlights of the annual Independence Day celebration on the Mall.
The fireworks display is one of the highlights of the annual Independence Day celebration on the Mall. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)
By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Organizers of Washington's annual Fourth of July celebration outlined plans yesterday for this year's festivities on the Mall and sought to reassure visitors that heightened security would be in effect because of recent terrorist activity in Great Britain.

The annual Independence Day observance will feature a parade on Constitution Avenue at 11:45 a.m., a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. on the West Lawn of the Capitol and a 20-minute fireworks display at 9:10 p.m. The free concert, hosted by the National Park Service and conducted by Erich Kunzel, will be broadcast nationally by public television and radio stations.

Among the changes this year, U.S. Capitol Police will open the West Lawn to the public at 5 p.m. instead of 2:30 p.m., Park Service spokesman Bill Line said.

Metro is increasing security at its stations and parking lots, officials said yesterday. Even before the attempted car bombings Friday and Saturday in England and Scotland, Metro had planned to step up security for the holiday, in part because July 7 is the two-year anniversary of the bus and subway bombings in London.

General Manager John B. Catoe Jr., who will be working from noon until 10 p.m. tomorrow, will be dropping in at the busiest downtown stations.

As with other July 4 festivities since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there will be street closures and parking bans, and visitors to the Mall and sections of George Washington Memorial Parkway will be required to pass through security checkpoints. Police said the checkpoints, to open at 10 a.m. tomorrow, have been widened to eliminate potential bottlenecks. In the past, Independence Day crowds have reached 500,000 or more people.

"We realize we are a target-rich environment," U.S. Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford said yesterday.

Pettiford said Park Police and 20 other law enforcement agencies will saturate the area with officers and high-tech security devices. A police helicopter will monitor crowds from above.

Pettiford's remarks came as British police arrested three more men in connection with attempted car bombings in Glasgow and London. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the plots appear linked to al-Qaeda. Eight people were in custody in the incidents, in which two men drove a Jeep Cherokee packed with propane into the Glasgow airport Saturday and two unexploded car bombs were found in London on Friday, authorities said.

"Given what happened last week in Britain, we wanted to increase patrols," Polly Hanson, Metro's new safety and security czar, said of increased security at Metro stations and parking lots. She noted, however, that Metro has received no information of a credible threat to the transit system.

In addition to increased patrols by Metro Transit Police, the federal Transportation Security Administration has volunteered special security teams to patrol some stations, she said.

Festivity organizers urge the public to use mass transit if possible.

With help from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, the Park Service is expanding its free bicycle valet service. The service, to operate from 2 p.m. tomorrow until 30 minutes after the fireworks display, provides two secure areas for bike parking: 15th Street between Independence Avenue and Jefferson Drive, just east of the Washington Monument, and on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial near Daniel French Drive.

Staff writer Lena H. Sun contributed to this report.

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