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Entrepreneurship on the National Mall

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PJ Wickwire, of Arvada, Colorado, is hoisted above the crowd for a better view at 7th and E Streets to pass a security checkpoint en route to the National Mall to witness the swearing-in of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

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It's shortly after 8:00AM and there are so many people on the mall that they are sometimes pushing other people over - but despite the crush, there are vendors moving through the crowd selling Obama t-shirts, hats, pins and the like.

The t-shirt sellers boast about their product - hand-made, silk-screened. Everyone else's shirts are cheap. Cash changes hands as they move on to the next bundle of people huddled together against the cold.

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Intermittently, the giant screens set up all over the Mall stop giving security tips - 'contact law enforcement if you see a suspicious package' - and show scenes from Sunday's concert at the Lincoln Memorial or stock aerial shots of the monuments. Shouts go up when the concert footage rolls, cheering the celebrities on screen even though there is no sound.

After dawn, inaugural volunteers from the Girl Scouts started circulating through the crowd distributing bundles of small American flags. Now, much of the crowd has flags, with some people clutching fistfuls of three or four flags which they wave during the spectators' roars.

The cold is pretty pervasive - some of the people moving around seem to be trying to get to the warming centers at the edges of the Mall and the museums where some respite from the chill can be found. With hours to go until the inauguration starts, more may join them over the course of the morning.


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