Barack Obama’s inauguration as the first U.S. black president will take place on Tuesday amid unprecedented security aimed at protecting him as well as the record crowds expected to attend.
With about 1.5 million people expected to take part in three days of festivities — including the swearing-in, parade and inaugural balls — tens of thousands of police and troops will guard the land, skies and waters around Washington.
The Homeland Security Department and other authorities see no credible or specific threat of an attack. But they say they are prepared for a wide range of potential catastrophes, including a chemical weapons attack and bitterly cold weather.
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“You’ve got to stretch your imagination because we’re really almost talking the unthinkable,” said Army Gen. Richard Rowe, who oversees the military’s inaugural preparations as head of the joint military task force for the Washington area.
This will be the first inauguration of a new president since the September 11 attacks that sharply raised America’s fears of a domestic attack and elevated security measures.