Lines, restrictions await Obama rally-goers

Part of Washington Avenue will be closed as well as buildings on Northrop Mall.

by Andre Eggert

Metal detectors, long lines, security check points. These are things one would normally associate with the airport, but President Barack ObamaâÄòs rally Saturday will bring them to the University of Minnesota.
While the event is open to the public, attendees will be required to undergo screening by metal detectors at the bridges connecting Coffman Union to Northrop Mall âÄî the only entrances into the event.
Buildings on Northrop Mall will be closed from 6 a.m. Saturday until the end of the rally, which is expected to go as late as 6 p.m.
Coffman will be open, but there will be no access from the side facing Northrop Mall and all attendees will need to enter on Delaware Street Southeast.
Other buildings further out from Northrop Mall, but still in the vicinity of the event, will only be accessible by the sides facing away from Northrop Mall.
Prohibited items brought to the event will be tossed into garbage receptacles outside of the security area. Personal cameras, binoculars and video cameras will be permitted inside the event area. While plastic baby bottles will be permitted, strollers and outside chairs are prohibited.
Items that will be prohibited will include: metal or plastic drink bottles, folding chairs, backpacks and bags or purses larger than a sheet of paper, posters or signs, laptops and sharp objects.
The event is the latest in a series of visits made by Obama at major universities that have included University of Wisconsin and Ohio State University.
Campus police at the schools were required to enforce similar security measures and coordinated with the U.S. Secret Service, but neither school experienced any serious problems.
âÄúWe didnâÄôt have any arrests,âÄù said Basic Patrol Sgt. Aaron Chapin of the University of Wisconsin Police Department, who was involved in security when Obama visited the Wisconsin campus. âÄúWe had a lot of people that wanted to get in and limited amounts of space, so there was a pretty significant backup when they opened security checkpoints.âÄù
With the rally and a Gopher football game against Penn State, traffic is expected to be another issue.
âÄúWeâÄôre expecting a significant amount of traffic congestion in conjunction with these two events,âÄù University spokesman Dan Wolter said. âÄúThatâÄôs just part of the reality of being an urban campus.âÄù
Wolter said public transportation such as buses and shuttles from the state fairgrounds are being promoted as a way to bypass traffic congestion.
Washington Avenue from the West Bank through Harvard Street Southeast is expected to be closed during the entire event, further complicating transportation issues.
Wolter said organizers urge using Fourth Street Southeast or Huron Boulevard Southeast toward Interstate Highway 94 to leave campus.
Parking lots at Church Street and Northrop Garages will be closed for security.
Attendance at the event has yet to be projected, but a similar event at Ohio State University brought out a crowd of 35,000 people. This is in addition to the tens of thousands who will be attending the Gopher football game.