Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama election night: 65,000 spectators, 7,000 media; see rally permit here

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By Andrew Herrmann, Fran Spielman and Frank Main
Chicago Sun-Times staff reporters

Barack Obama¹s camp says the election night celebration in Grant Park is for 65,000 spectators, plus 7,500 media members and campaign workers, according to the application filed with the Chicago Park District.

The official Nov. 4 event, in south Grant Park¹s Hutchison Field, will begin at 9 p.m. and end at 1 a.m., according to the application.

If people want to dance in joy, they may have to hum to themselves: The application says there will be no live or amplified music -- "spoken word only.''

Hot dogs, pizza and hot chocolate will be sold; alcohol will not, according to the campaign.

Meanwhile, Mayor Daley said the Obama campaign's decision to require tickets at the Grant Park rally -- and to stop issuing tickets on Wednesday -- would not alter the city's meticulous preparation for a rally that could draw more than a million people. "There's only one section that will have tickets,'' he said.

For those not ticketed, Daley cited the area around Columbus and Balbo for "the general public."

Chicago Parks Supt. Tim Mitchell said he looked forward to the attention that Obama's celebration would bring Chicago.

"CNN, the BBC, Al-Jazeera -- they'll all be broadcasting live from 'Grant Park -- Chicago,''' Mitchell said, perhaps with the city's Olympic bid in mind.

The city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications is planning to hold a news conference Friday to outline street closures and what one source called a Òlarge parking-restricted areaÓ that will be in effect downtown on Election Night.

Daley said the event could include giant video screens for people without tickets to see Obama's speech.

The Chicago Police Department is canceling days off for most officers from 8 a.m. on Nov. 4 to 8 a.m. on Nov. 5. Uniformed cops will be on L platforms across Chicago because the city is expecting an unusual number of people coming downtown on trains, police said.

The city's new 48-officer Mobile Strike Force, which recently underwent training in crowd control, will be among the special units patrolling the downtown area during the event. Officers won't be donning riot gear unless they have to control unruly crowds, police said.

Firefighters have been asked to take their gear home in case they have to be called up to handle emergencies. The city will monitor the event and other parts of Chicago through its massive network of closed-circuit security cameras.

Daley made no apologies for the rally planning that has preoccupied City Hall and prompted OEMC to sign a $60,000 contract with the Chicago Police Department's retired resident expert on security planning.

"You have to understand, this is a celebration for a campaign over two years. That's what this is all about. In celebrations, you have to worry about the safety of people. If someone got sick there, if someone had a heart attack, what do you do? In big crowds, how do you get them out?Ó he said.

Last week, Daley put a $2 million pricetag on the cost of city services tied to the Obama rally and said the cash-flush Obama campaign had agreed to cover every penny.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 29, 2008 5:30 PM.

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