Shut-Out Ticket Holders Plan Inauguration Replay

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 24, 2009

Barack Obama got a do over of his oath of office. Now, a campaign staff member who was shut out of the original ceremony is planning a do over of his own.

Gabe Cohen, 29, who spent 20 months campaigning, has sent notice to friends and Obama supporters that he will lead a swearing-in viewing event near the U.S. Capitol today at noon. They will watch on laptops and listen on iPods, he said.

Cohen and his mother, Judy Marks, were among thousands of purple- and blue-section ticket holders who were denied entrance to Tuesday's ceremony after waiting for more than five hours.

"In the same spirit of the campaign, a couple of us got to talking, and we wanted to make the best of an unfortunate situation," said Cohen, who lives in Denver and worked as a field director and state director in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Pennsylvania.

Marks said she and her son arrived at the Silver Spring Metro station at 5:15 a.m., then followed the directions provided by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies about where to line up for the purple section. They took their place in line near the front of the Third Street tunnel.

"I'm claustrophobic, so at least I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Marks, associate director for the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

That was their last bit of illumination. Eventually the line moved forward, but it soon got bogged down again. Thousands began chanting, "Let us in!"

Marks and Cohen, realizing they would not make it in, began hustling back toward Union Station when they noticed a Johnny's Half Shell restaurant, which was hosting a private viewing party. They paid to get in and watched the ceremony there. "It was unfortunate what happened, but it was a wonderful day," Cohen said.

He initially invited his mother and friends to today's unofficial event. But he has since posted an announcement on a Facebook page called "Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom," which has more than 4,500 members. They will gather as close to the Capitol as possible, although he's not sure they'll have access to the steps.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the inaugural committee, has launched an investigation and promised to deliver souvenir packets to those who were kept out.

"I'm sure she has been trying to be responsive to many disappointed people," Marks said, "but she can't bring back the day."

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