Early arena lockdown leaves some Obama volunteers out

Liz Goodwin

CHARLOTTE, N.C.--The Time Warner Cable Arena closed down more than two hours before President Barack Obama was scheduled to address the crowd of 17,000 at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, leaving a group of at least 50 people holding passes locked outside.

"In my heart I want to be in there. It's very disappointing," said Fran Freeman, an Obama supporter who traveled to Charlotte from Massachusetts to volunteer to ferry around Democratic VIPs. Though Freeman had waited for more than an hour without any sign from police that she would be let in, she said she's not giving up hope. "I've been praying, and I have a friend who's praying, too," she said, while sporting a "Women for Obama" button.

At one point, police asked the people standing outside the arena entrance to raise their hands so they could take a head count, but as of 8:30 p.m. the crowd was still waiting outside.

"We're just the faithful few," said Mabel Hemphilo, who arrived downtown early Thursday morning to volunteer. Hemphilo said she had been waiting outside for more than an hour.

"We're not giving up yet," said Ken Floyd, who arrived from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with his mom and sister to attend the convention just as police were closing down the arena. "When we got here I asked if there was any chance they'd let us in--they didn't say no but they didn't say yes." On Wednesday night, hundreds of press, delegates and other ticket holders were held outside the arena for at least an hour, but were eventually let in.

Obama's DNC speech was moved from the nearby Bank of America stadium to the much smaller Time Warner Cable Arena over fears of bad weather. Thousands of people who expected to attend the speech were instead directed to TV watch parties.