(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Nearly four hours before President Obama would accept the Democratic nomination for president, the gates outside the Time Warner Cable Arena were locked and hundreds of would-be attendees were turned away.
At one of the main entrances to the arena located at North College and East 5th streets in downtown Charlotte, hundreds stood like sardines, leaning against police barriers, hoping this was just a temporary delay.
It’s believed the gates were closed around 6:30 p.m. ET, but it took law enforcement over an hour and a half to inform the crowd that they weren’t getting in.
Delegates and dignitaries were among the crowd that shouted at police for answers.
Bloomberg News reported British opposition leader Ed Miliband, former chairman of the White House council of economic advisers Austan Goolsbee, and president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten were all locked out.
“Can you just talk to us?” shouted one woman. “Tell us that we can’t get in and we’ll leave. Just please give us some answers.”
Finally, around 8 p.m. ET, Deputy Chief of Police Kerr Putney approached the crowd and informed them of the bad news.
“I want you to know, you’re in my city, I don’t want you standing out here. You’re not going to get in tonight,” said Putney.
“The fire marshal has closed. We’re over capacity in the arena. I apologize.”
Many members of the crowd had trouble believing their night was over.
“Even the delegates,” shouted one woman at the front of the crowd.
The deputy chief also seemed upset by the fire marshal’s decision. “I’m gonna tell you: This is my city, and it’s embarrassing,” he said.
As Putney walked away, a woman in her 30s started to cry as she informed her relative by phone that she couldn’t get in.
The crowd was told to walk a few blocks down the street to the Charlotte Convention Center, where a watch party sponsored by the campaign drew a few thousand.
It’s unclear whether the DNC oversold the arena, but the move from Bank of America Stadium back to the Time Warner Center for the Thursday-night session may have had an impact.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Michael Pearson, Faith Karimi and Ian Lee, CNN
Jim Acosta and Greg Clary, CNN