All eyes will be on Washington on Tuesday, but for those unable to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama the party will continue across America to celebrate the start of a new presidential administration.
By Matthew Garrahan in Los Angeles and Hal Weitzman in Chicago
On the other side of the country in Los Angeles some schools will open later in the morning to allow students to watch the event live on television. Street parties have also been planned, allowing the thousands of people who volunteered during the Obama campaign to celebrate for a second time.
“We’re having a scooter parade for a few hundred kids,” said Mitchell Schwartz, the LA-based state director of the California Obama campaign. “We’ll be closing down our street and having a party . . . it’s going to be great.”
But the occasion is being marked by more than parties and celebrations. Protesters gathered outside Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, on Sunday to demonstrate against the pastor’s high-profile inclusion in the inauguration ceremony.
Mr Warren, a vocal opponent of abortion and gay marriage, is due to deliver the invocation at the inauguration. His inclusion has outraged the gay community following the backing he gave to the recent campaign to ban gay marriages in California.
“This is a protest in front of one man’s congregation to let him know that his views and his pulpit are causing great harm to his fellow humans,” said Fred Karger, the founder of Californians Against Hate.
Some of Mr Obama’s supporters are using the inauguration to press home the promises he made during the campaign. Santa Monica-based Plug-In America held a large event this weekend featuring more than 70 electricity-powered vehicles. It wants Mr Obama to raise his target for electricity-powered cars, which it says will reduce the emissions that cause climate change. Mr Obama has called for 1m electric cars by 2015.
“He has shown tremendous leadership,” said Zan Dubin Scott of Plug-In America. “But we’re asking him to accelerate the number of electric cars on the road. We want 1m by 2012 and 12m by 2016.”
The overwhelming mood in the US is one of excitement about the beginning of Mr Obama’s administration. In Chicago, DuSable – the oldest black history museum in the country, not far from Mr Obama’s house in the city – is also expected to draw large crowds to its annual “Martinmas” celebration, to mark Martin Luther King Jr day. What is usually a one-day event has been transformed into a three-day programme.
“This is going to be a few days of pure celebration,” says Raymond Ward, DuSable’s communications chief. “We’re a history museum, and this is history in the making.”
Charles Banham, an academic at Chicago university, also teaches at the Laboratory Schools, which Mr Obama’s daughters attended until their move to Washington. He says there is huge excitement among the pupils to see their former classmates the focus of attention. “We’ve set up monitors all over to make sure every kid at the school gets to see the inauguration,” he says.
Some politicians and legislators will be staying at home. Brian Bilbray, the Republican House representative for Solana Beach in California, said he would not attend due to the frigid Washington weather. “The only time I get that cold is when I surf in January,” he told the North County Times.