PHILADELPHIA — Ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival into Philadelphia, the city has launched a massive security operation that encompasses local, state, and federal organizations.
Outside of Philadelphia City Hall, barriers and guarded checkpoints are forcing several people and drivers to re-think their plans to visit downtown.
On Friday evening, crowds waited in lines stretched around at least two city blocks to visit St. John the Evangelist in downtown Philadelphia. Not far away a motorcade, similar to what you’d see during a Presidential visit, shuttled officials and special guests into the middle of City Hall. Most events involving the pope have required a ticket in order to help with crowd control.
This afternoon, the crowds provided a firsthand reminder of how many people from across the United States had gathered to witness a moment in history.
The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau has estimated the Papal visit could generate up to $418 million for businesses across the greater Philadelphia area.
“We’ve been out here since (Thursday), and we’ve been able to sell over $1,500 worth of products,” said Colton Smykal, a Pennsylvania-based street vendor selling pope-themed flags, buttons, and koozies. Other vendors could be seen offering T-shirts ranging in price from $5-$15. During the pope’s visit to Washington, similar items could be purchased outside the White House and U.S. Capitol.
With so many people gathered for papal events, vendors are praying for enough business that they’ll be able to walk away without any leftover inventory.
“We’re going to get rid of it. It’s not even an option in our mind,” said Smykal.
KHON2 assignment editor Sheryl Turbeville is in Philadelphia and shared various snapshots of the city.
“We started walking around where the pope is going to be tomorrow, and it’s a mad rush. People are setting up, there’s security at every corner, there’s a lot of police presence, they’re putting up fences. The National Guard is at a lot of the street corners,” she said. “It’s pretty electric here. There’s a lot of people just lining the street corners, just kind of checking it out. A lot of people are doing tours, people are excited. Even people who don’t have tickets to come to the events told us they just showed up because they want to get a glimpse of the pope.
“We’re so excited to be here, to see him speak, and just be in this audience. And all the people have been very friendly. I’m really excited,” Turbeville added.