Monday, November 1, 2010

A disorganized rally

This weekend involved a series of organized activities. Saturday in particular was packed with events, first at Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear and then celebrating Halloween with some friends from college.

First off: the rally -- a fun, disorganized mess
Here's the rally in a nutshell:
The good:
  • good weather
  • hilarious signs

The bad:
  • bad job on the part of the organizers underestimating crowds
  • bad sound
  • transportation issues
  • rally-goers who don't understand subtle irony and instead created signs bashing Republicans (not the point of the rally)
Matt and I made our own moderate, rational sign
Of course, while there were strangers who enjoyed the sign and asked me to pose for a photo, there were some who came up and asked, "So, are you a Republican?" Work with me, people!

In case you haven't heard, the rally on Saturday afternoon was not exactly what it was cracked up to be. Specifically, the good people at Comedy Central underestimated the crowds they would draw by a long shot, planning for about 60,000 when figures suggest that approximately 215,000-250,000 people flooded the National Mall.

Matt and I made plans to attend the rally with his brother and our sister-in-law, who live much closer to the city than we do. We were not determined to get up early or be on the front row, both of which seemed to be in keeping with the spirit of sanity the rally was trying to promote.

Once we got on 66 eastbound heading for D.C., though, we could tell immediately that our chances of Metroing into the city from Arlington were highly unlikely. Traffic on 66 was at a stand-still as people with license plates from all kinds of east-coast and mid-western states tried to get in the line for the Metro exits. When we made it past the Fairfax County traffic into Arlington, though, there was basically no traffic, but there was no chance we were going to get on the Metro either. Most people who managed to squeeze into the packed cars on the train had gotten on the Metro at the end of the line in Vienna and/or rode the Metro west-bound from Arlington to Vienna, where they then changed trains and headed back into the city. I wasn't shocked this morning when I heard on the radio that Metro ridership set a new 19-year record.

So, we went with plan B: we walked from Arlington.

And then, after walking for about 15 minutes, we found a cab (plan C).

We got to the National Mall around 12:35, just in time to hear The Roots finishing their set to open the rally. (I kept calling them Rusted Root, though, which seemed like an even more appropriate band for Saturday's festivities.) The crowds kept pushing us all closer to the stage, but no one could hear anything. All speakers and jumbotrons were way out of sight. The only thing we could hear was everyone near us chanting, "Louder, louder, louder" and then people started chanting, "Yes you can" to other rally-goers who started climbing trees to get a better view. (I do not endorse climbing the trees on the National Mall.)

After a little more than one hour we decided this wasn't going to work out, so we started heading back home. The crowds were really thinning out, too. A bunch of our friends were at the rally independent of us, and it turns out all of us had virtually the same experience. Everyone had trouble getting there, no one could hear, no one stayed very long, but everyone enjoyed looking at the fun signs in the nice weather.
You can check out more user-uploaded photos of signs here through the Washington Post.

The day before Obama's inauguration Matt and I attended the free concert at the Lincoln Memorial -- "We Are All One." That was impressive and overall well organized with lots of jumbotrons and great sound quality. The "We Are All One" concert put the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear to shame with its skillful organization. As our friend Courtney, who also attempted to attend this Saturday's rally, pointed out, Saturday's Stewart/Colbert failed rally in light of the "We Are All One" concert was, if nothing else, an example of big government trumping private industry.

Next up...our organized Halloween.

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