Chaos At The Doors

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"I'm a delegate! I'm supposed to be in there!" That fruitless plea was one of many being heard this week at the doors to the United Center as thousands of delegates, Democratic staff and members of the press struggle to enter the hall amid tight but amateurishly disorganized security. Michael Jordan, whose Bulls play in the Center, never saw it like this. To prevent terrorist attacks, the Secret Service has installed concrete barriers blocks away from the entrances, creating a long ragged line of delegates and reporters hauling cameras, radios, telephones and computers toward the House That Jordan Built. Once there, they must pass through metal detectors so sensitive that they pick up the holograms in credit cards, leading to a sort of disrobing delay as, one at a time, people remove jewelry, rings, even security passes, whose metal clip sets off the alarms, while cameras and bags are xrayed and hand-checked. Since some local scalpers have color-xeroxed fake passes, the guards also must feel the passes to check the paper quality. Unlike the neatly organized system at the GOP convention in San Diego, though, which fed the throngs smoothly to the metal detectors, the Chicago security team has no idea how to organize the lines leading to the gates. On Monday night, as thousands of people pressed forward in an agitated mob, impatient delegates and Democratic staff began jumping the line and forcing their way into an already claustrophic mass. Senior White House aide George Stephanopoulos burst out laughing when, making his way through the chaos, he spotted a fuming magazine photographer being frisked by Secret Security at the front door. Said one exasperated delegate from Nevada: "Hillary Clinton would never let them do it like this. Somebody ought to be fired!" Hold on, there. Wasn't there some trouble last time somebody suggested something like that? - Janice Castro