Chairs at papal event? Yes, but…

Could you envision these chairs being carried into the papal zone? (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON/Staff Photographer)

Are chairs allowed through the magnetometers at the papal events this weekend?

It’s a question that has been difficult to answer. The U.S. Secret Service does not list chairs on its rundown of prohibited items but when asked explicitly about chairs the city has referred back to the Secret Service.

Here’s the (lengthy) explanation Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback gave today on whether pilgrims can bring chairs to Independence Hall and the Parkway.

The basic answer? Secret Service doesn’t usually allow them but is making an exception. If you bring them, though, expect a lengthier security screening and try to keep them small, free of metal poles and secret compartments.

Here’s Hoback’s full statement on the issue:

“While chairs are not specifically identified on the Secret Service prohibited items list, they can potentially pose safety and security hazards and have usually been restricted at past events where the Secret Service has coordinated operational security planning. However, given the features of the specific security and transportation plans drawn up for the Papal Visit NSSEs; the uniquely significant magnitude of crowds; and the higher than usual numbers of elderly, physically disabled, and other individuals who would find it difficult to stand for long periods of time expected to attend the Papal events, among other factors, the Secret Service has determined that it will allow chairs of a limited nature into its restricted areas. Accordingly, individuals planning to bring chairs to magnetometer checkpoint locations for any of the Papal events should take several things into consideration. The law enforcement and public safety officials at the various checkpoints have a tremendous amount of experience. Nevertheless, the smaller or more compact the chair, the easier and quicker it is to verify that it is safe. Individuals may not arrive at security checkpoints with numerous or cumbersome chairs because screening these items will unreasonably slow the screening process for everyone else. Additionally, chairs that are composed of metal poles with large diameters, and poles with openings in which items could be secreted, may require excessive time to verify that they are safe. If we cannot verify the safety of a chair in a reasonable amount of time, it will not be permitted through the screening process. Additionally, chairs determined to be a “potential safety hazard” also will not be permitted (including but not limited to chairs that could, in the view of the security officer, be disassembled or broken into pieces and used to create a weapon or projectile).