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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Alex Comeau, left, along with Mike Landry, right, and his sons, Colin, 4, seated, and Brandon, 7, hold signs Tuesday at the roundabout on Broad Street in Nashua before President Barack Obama's visit.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Andrew Droutman and his 17-year-old son, Daniel, both of Nashua, had tickets to the Obama event Tuesday, February 2, 2010, but were not allowed in to Nashua High School North along with many other ticket holders.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Evelyn Hidalgo of Pelham demonstrates in support of President Obama at the Broad Street rotary Tuesday, February 2, 2010, before the president's Town Hall-style event at Nashua High School North.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    A long line of people stand in the cold waiting Tuesday, February 2, 2010, to get in to President Barack Obama's Town Hall-style event at Nashua High School North. Hundreds were turned away, some holding tickets to the event.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    A line of people waits to get in to Nashua High School North Tuesday, February 2, 2010, before President Barack Obama's Town Hall-style event.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Picketting at the rotary on Broad Street, Josiette White of Manchester, holds signs Tuesday, February 2, 2010, before President Barack Obama's Town Hall-style event at Nashua High School North.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Protestors gather at the rotary on Broad Street Tuesday, February 2, 2010, before President Barack Obama's Town Hall-style event at Nashua High School North.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Residents, students, officials say his visit squeezed some

NASHUA – It almost felt like primary season again Tuesday, at least on a small portion of Broad Street near Nashua High School North.

Protesters and supporters surrounded the round-about at the entrance to the high school, waving signs and debating one another hotly about a range of issues including health care, taxes, the economy and whether Jesus was a socialist.

As they waited for the president to arrive, things quieted down around 1:30 p.m., when the street was closed down briefly, although a few disagreements sprang up after a few minutes.

Greg Boggis, a Milford resident, wasn’t afraid to share his opinion with a couple holding signs criticizing Obama policies.

“I wanted to come down and engage some folks who, I think, were heating up the rhetoric in a way that’s unhelpful,” Boggis said. “I had some nice conversations with people.”

John Demello, a Danbury resident, said he wanted the president to hear his thoughts, literally, on the $3.8 trillion budget proposal announced Monday and his economic policies.

“I just wanted to holler a couple times to tell him to stop the spending,” Demello said. “He’s not listening to what the people want.”

Demello got his chance to holler when the president rolled through the rotary, waving from the back of the second car in the motorcade.

Nick Benecke and his friends and fellow students at Nashua North said they had never witnessed the fever pitch – calling it “rowdy” – that protesters and supporters reached when Obama rode through.

“I could tell people were getting heated,” Benecke said.

All six teenagers, sophomores and juniors at North, said they were there to support Obama. Several recorded the president’s passage on their cell phones.

Even if they were not interested in the president’s visit, the school’s neighbors had the hullaballoo thrust upon them.

“It’s a nuisance, if you want me to tell you the truth,” said a Thistle Court resident, who declined to give her name. “It’s a nuisance.”

Along with the rolling roadblocks that surrounded the presidential motorcade on its route to the school, local and state police blocked off a few streets nearby the school, and parking barriers were set up along Broad Street starting just before the Nashua Mall.

Suresh Kumar was working from home on Coburn Avenue and canceled a number of consulting appointments instead of dealing with difficult traffic all day. “In and out is really bad, especially since it’s right at the rotary,” he said. “It’s worth it, I think.”

Kumar said he was interested in the president’s visit and was planning to walk to the high school to check out the scene. He wasn’t able to get tickets to the event.

Even a ticket might not have guaranteed him a seat, though.

As many as a couple of hundred people were walking back to their cars just after the president arrived because, although they had tickets, they were denied entrance to the school. Some said Secret Service agents told them the city fire marshal deemed the crowd inside too large.

White House officials confirmed the fire marshal decided to close the doors. Before the event, the Obama administration, school administrators and the fire marshal agreed on the number of tickets to distribute. The public obtained 1,000 tickets via the White House Web site while additional tickets were given to schools and to state and local leaders.

“There’s probably 200 people who didn’t get in,” Dave Connelly, a Nashua resident, said. “Someone down there needs to learn simple arithmetic.”

Andrew Droutman and his son, Daniel, a 17-year-old Nashua North student, were among those left out in the cold.

“I’m just a little upset about it. I mean, these guys can send someone to the moon. They should be able to figure out how many people fit in a room,” Andrew Droutman said. “It’s not like they haven’t done a million of these.”

The planning for the Obama visit began well before Tuesday. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said most of the city’s involvement was learning what White House officials needed and then making it happen. City and state police coordinated the president’s route from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport to Nashua, including closing some roads for the motorcade as well as the police detail at the high school.

“There’s a lot of jurisdictions involved obviously,” Lozeau said. “Our police are working hand-in-hand, and there are still things police can’t tell me or others, nor should they.”

Nashua police Lt. Bruce Hansen coordinated the efforts of about 70 city officers and troopers who worked security at the school and along the route. State police coordinated with local departments, and closed on- and off-ramps to the highway just before the president passed by, said Chris Wagner, assistant commander of State Police Troop B.

Both high schools were released early Tuesday, at 12:03 p.m., to accommodate the event. The class time will be made up in May, when the high schools will go for a full day and the rest of the district will have its regularly scheduled early release.

Students who drove to school Tuesday parked at the Resurrection Catholic Church across Broad Street.

“We are certainly honored to have the president visit our city. We’re very proud of it,” Lozeau said. “I think Nashua’s always a good choice. I think Nashua’s a pretty good microcosm of the state. Of course, many of the things the president is coming to talk to the city about, and the residents about, is jobs and the economy. This is an opportunity to hear what’s on his mind as far as specifics and to ask questions. I think it’s a message that most of our businesses are anxious to hear.”

Among those who had to pay attention to Obama’s visit on Tuesday were pilots. As is always the case when Air Force One arrives, the Federal Aviation Administration closed portions of the nearby airspace.

A bulletin released Monday by the FAA said that flights were limited within a 30-nautical-mile radius of Manchester-Boston Regional between noon to 5 p.m., while a 10-mile “no-fly zone” was in effect from noon-1:15 p.m. and 4-5 p.m.

The airports within the radius include Nashua’s Boire Field and airports in places as far away as Concord, Jaffrey, and Beverly, Mass.

Roland Noyes, who lives near the school, wasn’t working Tuesday because of the flight restrictions. He works as an independent flight instructor at Boire Field. He was able to dodge the traffic, he said, by sticking to back roads and avoiding Broad Street altogether.

“It’s no different for us than the mornings with school,” he said.

Staff Writer Kevin Landrigan contributed to this report. Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com.