Security in Philadelphia beefing up for Pope’s visit

PHILADELPHIA (WHTM) – Thursday night there were crowds, but Friday, just hours before the Pope’s arrival, there’s an army of law enforcement and a phalanx of detours.

You can get here from there, but it won’t be easy.

Pedestrians, priests, and police patrols taking casual strolls on the busiest streets in Philadelphia that are now locked down.

The National Guard is on some corners, concrete barriers on others, but law enforcement everywhere.

“It’s very eerie, but it’s neat to be here, walk on streets, Broad Street, walking on Spring Garden. No cars anywhere an all in anticipation of the Pope,” said Lori Blake, a Harrisburg native who lives in Philadelphia.

Lori and Amy Campbell are Bishop McDevitt graduates who now live in the area.

The Pope will be a few blocks from Amy’s house.

Police have been in touch.

“They did just tell me last night [that] I am not allowed on my balcony and I asked if that was for real? How can they keep me off [the] balcony? Well, they said if you have a red dot on your head, you might feel a little differently about that,” Campbell said.

Sections of the city have literally been walled off or more accurately fenced off.

Thursday you could walk down the street to the convention center.

Today, all traffic was steered down to those checkpoints with metal detectors.

One Philadelphian said he feels like he’s in a prison.

Schools and offices were closed.

Critics call the lockdown zones too large, Police Chief Charles Ramsey calls them necessary.

“Nothing you do is gonna satisfy everyone. You have to do what you think is in their best interest because then if something happened during this event then your question would be how come your zone wasn’t big enough. Right?” Ramsey said.

This is not the first time a Pope has come to Philadelphia.

John Paul II visited in October 1979.

The excitement was just as big, the security a lot less, but it was a different world.

“In those days, we didn’t know about terrorism and flying planes into the [World] Trade Center. We were a happier country and this is a different time, so I salute all the agencies that have the interest and safety of [the] Holy Father at heart,” said Lynne Abraham, former Philadelphia District Attorney.

Patience, not typically a Philadelphia trait, will need to be as visible as the security.

How much does all of this Papal protection cost?

“I have no idea and that’s above my pay grade,” Ramsey said.

They are certainly taking no chances.

Security is so tight that they have welded mailboxes shut.

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