It was good we were admiring the Lincoln Memorial around 9am because not long after we got there, the Metro was overwhelmed. The trains were so full, that passengers in the closer stations couldn't get on them. They were taking the trains in the opposite direction to the end of the line in order to be able to get on the train to get to the Mall!
As we started the walk down the Mall towards the rally site, throngs of people were walking with us (and it was only a little past 10). We saw two helicopters leave the White House, presumably carrying the president off to do some campaigning.
Shortly before 11, we made it on the rally site between 4th and 7th. It was absolutely thronged. We found some food and perched against a crowd fence in the middle of the section, within view of a jumbotron. We could see the stage in the distance but it was way too packed to try to get closer. Cell phones did not work, so we missed meeting up with Friend-of-Jake Karen) and thus it was just us. Right around the time it was starting, a woman came up behind us. She had managed to find her boyfriend (no mean feat when the phones don't work) and said that the crowds went back across 7th all the way to the Washington Monument. There weren't any jumbotrons back there, either.
So, it was very low-key and friendly, mostly music and some sketches. Couldn't see anything except on the jumbotron. The crowd was warmed up by Adam Savage and Jamie Heinnemann of Mythbusters fame, who had us all do the wave, and jump in synchrony, and make funny noises. There were funny signs ("This is a sign"; "I see smart people"; "We are a mixed party couple and we have great sex") and more serious ones ("Congress should do stuff" ; $2billion a day isn't a defense, it's a scandal"). The invocation was by Fr Guido Sarducci. THe younger people didn't know who he was.
People were very positive, singing along when they could. The demographic, contrary to expectation, was not all young. There were lots of older people too. Mostly but not exclusively white; I'd guess around 85%.
Jon Stewart's impassioned speech at the end calling for intelligence, and criticizing a media of soundbites and endless campaigning hit the right note for this crowd. If there was a boogeyman, it was Fox news and corporate takeover of the political discourse. Stewart commented more than once that Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez may have made stupid remarks, but are NOT racist, and a communal tar-n-feathering of them was not at all appropriate. He wasn't partisan, having comments about the hyperpartisanship of both sides.
These Muslim women had signs offering to introduce folks to Islam
Will it make a difference? I don't know. Certainly it was the nicest possible crowd leaving the site, as the hordes inched along the streets. BP and I held hands tightly in fear of getting separated without phones. We walked all the way up to 9th and U, in an evening quest to find Ethiopian food. While having a couple beers in a bar there (near Howard University), we met a nice young man called Mark who was on his way back to the bus. He had come from Ohio on an overnight bus, and was going back the same day. Easy for BP and me, comfortably-off professionals, to splurge on a weekend. But Mark, who is probably in his late 20s, made a real effort to get there and make a difference. So did a lot of others.
Do you see us? Two lesbians under the pink arrow waving! (Photo from CBS, arrow added by IT)
The same company that estimated 87,000 for the Glenn Beck rally estimated 215,000 for this one.
So now the job is clear. Get out there and VOTE for the grownups, and become a civil, sane, civic participant. We get the government and the media we deserve. Time to be heard.
All photos (c) author, except where noted. Click on any for a closer view