My Day at the Rally to Restore Sanity

My brief summary of the Rally to Restore Sanity/March to Keep Fear Alive — with tons of pictures:

First, the brief comments:

– I love that the Mythbusters spoke on stage. But their attempt to do live experiments with a huge sample size was a bust. I know the Rally was supposed to be apolitical, but it would’ve been nice to hear them advocate for more science funding and better science education.

– Did the Rally planners completely underestimate the crowd? From where I was standing, you couldn’t see much of anything and there was very little room to move. That’s just asking for chaos.

– I was standing close to a First Aid tent and, for the people who actually needed to use it, it was a battle trying to get access to it. (It’s hard to get a crowd to move for you when we don’t have any space in which to maneuver).

– I had asked Comedy Central for a Press Pass, but they ultimately said no. There was a report that of the 1000+ requests they received, 400 passes were issued. If you know a better way to get access to big events like this (for the future), I’d love to hear it.

– As soon as I got onto the down escalator at the Dupont Circle Metro stop, I noticed the group of Pharyngula fans (with appropriate signs) at the top of the steps. I think they said hello, but I didn’t make sense of all this in time to give a proper hello back. My apologies!

Alright — now, to the pics (after the jump):

The group I was with left from the Shady Grove Metro stop (far from the National Mall) a few hours before the event started.

We were too late.

This was the line just to get Metro tickets… we still had to go down the stairs and through the tunnel before we could get to the machines:

Even when we got back home, hours after the rally ended, the crowd hadn’t subsided:

Despite all the people, we made it there!

But our spot was awful. We could barely see the TV monitors, much less the actual stage. I only got this pic because my camera was held high above my head.

Here’s the view of the crowd from where I was standing:

So we all decided to leave the Rally shortly after it began.

It might seem like a failed attempt at attending the Rally, but at that point, finding some space to move and breathe was a welcome relief.

On the bright side, I was able to take pics of some of the fantastic signs and costumes I saw (before, during, and after the rally) — and a few people sent me their pics as well:









This next one comes via Mitchell Thomas Massey:







The UbiFamily (frequent commenters here) had their own signs and costumes (the last one reading, “Is This Thing On?”):





Amanda‘s poster may be one of my favorites:





Hey, it’s another Indian person!



Do I see the back of Pedobear…?


I love the next sign… and yes, those are people climbing trees, because it was the only way for our section to see much of anything:







I don’t know who had this sign, but if you’re reading this, you are full of awesome!:









An homage to XKCD:



To the stranger who made the following sign, I swear I was around there somewhere! (Thanks to Amanda Molnar for the pic):



I’m not sure whose sign this is, but it was getting a lot of play on Twitter (via @a_okafor007):



There were some interesting characters present, too:





Even the Flying Spaghetti Monster made a couple appearances:

(That last image is courtesy of Ubi Dubium.)

Brian Fields took this shot of a sidestreet that wasn’t even in the official Rally “area”… which makes me think those crowd estimates were under-reported:

I heard that the folks from the United Coalition of Reason gathered at the Navy Memorial before the march to the National Mall. Fred Edwords of UnitedCoR points out that they passed one of their godless bus shelters along the way :) As they walked, they chanted, “2-4-6-8, Separate church and state!” (Picture below by Diane Griffin):

The best part about the day for me was meeting a bunch of atheists afterwards at a restaurant. I’ll admit I was amazed at how many people came, but we packed the restaurant (and several tables on the rooftop).

Thanks to everyone who came out for the celebration :)

  • Claudia

    No fair Hemant, where’s you’re sign? I want to know which one you chose! (It’s the envy talking)

  • http://Q Kevin S.

    We got there at 7:30, figuring it was the only way to secure a good spot. We actually started way up in the front section, but the speakers made being up there unbearable, so we dropped back and retreated to a further location that could still see the Jumbotrons, but was much closer to the food tents and Port-a-Johns.

    Also, the best sign was clearly “The Civil War was an inside job.”

  • http://www.bigmama247.com Alise

    Oh noes! Photographic evidence of my visit with the atheists!

    Great to meet you. And Phil & Robin, if you’re reading, lovely to chat with you as well!

  • Meredith

    I am sorry we couldn’t stay and come to the dinner. But I am SO glad that I made the trip to DC. We took the train, which had us avoid all the Metro bottlenecks. The money we spent on train tickets was well worth avoiding the 95 traffic (from Richmond) and the mass of people trying to get on the Metro.

    We got there around 11am and walked right to the rally. We had to walk about 4 blocks down to even get on the grass and off the street. Even then, we were so squashed it was nuts. We would have moved but honestly, we were unable to. We could see one jumbotron closely and heard everything just fine. But I also TIVO’d it at home, knowing that we would want to ‘see’ everything close up later.

    This was my first rally so I am not sure what was missing/ bad compared to others. I am glad I went and was a part of it. I could have done without so much music and a little more substance, but it was pretty much exactly what I thought it would be.

    The signs were the best part and the “I’m with stupid” sign was by far my favorite.

  • Scott

    The organizers did underestimate: the rally projection was 60,000 people, and according to aerial photography analysis by AirPhotosLive.com, they estimate that there were 215,000 (+/- 10%) people there (source: Wikipedia).

    By comparison, the same group estimated that 87,000 (+/- 9,000) went to Beck’s rally. (And Beck’s projection was 100,000.)

  • http://www.monogodo.com monogodo

    My wife scored 3 press passes to it, one each for two of her friends and herself. She was also one of only 40 invited by Comedy Central to the post-rally press conference at the National Press Club.

    She knows people at Comedy Central, but still didn’t know she got her credentials until very late. Even though she knew that the “powers that be” at CC knew who she was, she filled out the press pass application with the mindset that they didn’t have a clue who she was, and would have to sell herself and her site. Apparently it worked.

  • Anonymous

    My favorite sign was:

    What do we want?
    -Evidence based change
    When do we want it?
    -After peer review

    (Located in the comments here)
    http://gawker.com/5677347/snapshots-of-sanity-andor-fear-from-the-stewart+colbert-rally/gallery

  • Barrett

    Reason made a good video about what they saw at the rally.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlMq1R-64Qc

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    I’ve got tons of pictures from the rally, too (hey, that’s me with my “In FSM We Trust” sign up there!).

    I’ve also got a few photos from the after party at the Lauriol Plaza.

    Good to see you again, Hemant. You looked insanely tired.

  • talynkotr

    I would have traded you Kevin. We were too far back to hear more then half of what was going on. But at least I can see half of my head in the restaurant shot. Curse you foliage. :-)

  • Greg

    Had a great time at both the rally and the Lauriol dinner afterwards. Thrilled I finally got to talk to you for a few minutes Hemant! I was hoping to talk further but it seemed like the dinner dissipated pretty quickly. I did hang with with some great folks from CFI after dinner though.

    Rally was excellent, but insanely packed. We managed to be standing right behind the first jumbo screen after the cordoned off area from the stage, which meant we were still 200-250 yards back at least. I’m pretty sure I could have fallen asleep and not hit the ground we were that closed in.

    I’ve never witnessed a cell network get that overloaded. Trying to do any kind of update on Facebook (or even make a phone call) was a waste of time from 11am – 3pm.

    The one thing that really struck me at the rally was how polite everyone was for a crowd that huge. Some guy came through waving a big flag at one point that was in the way of the screen. Another guy yells “hey! Put that flag down!” and that’s followed up by “… but if you don’t, that’s OK too” :)

  • medussa

    I posted about 100 pictures of great signs on the Huffpost sign site, about 30 were loaded into their lineup. It was a great day. I left my hotel at about 9 am, went to the Metro and realized there was no way I was dealing with that line. So I hoofed it. Got to the rally around 11 am and never got close enough to stage or screen to see a damned thing. But I heard most of it, had a great time, and never met up with anyone I knew as texting, calling and any other form of electronic communication died an instant death…

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    I must have been in your vicinity (relatively speaking), because I saw many of the same signs. Loved one that said (I’m paraphrasing): “I’d tell you my opinion, but it’s complicated (and I might change my mind if presented with additional evidence).” The reason-based community definitely had a strong presence.

    One had to be amazed at the level of cooperation from people packed in like that. We had a jolly time joking around with the people we were practically dirty dancing with on Metro. The only kerfuffle I saw all day was a lady on Metro screaming and trying to keep more people from getting on because she was “claustrophobic.” Umm…might be a good idea to find alternate transportation, ma’am.

  • Fredvegas

    That’s my “Where’s Hemant?” sign! Sorry we missed you!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    You can see the pictures I took at this link.

  • Jon

    “…..he seems equivalent to a man who “satirically” sits on a street corner with a cup, but still expects money. ”
    Great analysis of Jon Stewart

  • http://kitchenfallout.blogspot.com DianaG

    We arrived at 9:30 am and got awesome spots in front of a screen. It wasn’t too crowded there, but going to the port-a-potties was a nightmare.

    We also tried to go to the party afterward but the restaurant was too full (we walked there immediately after the rally but didn’t get there until 5. We ended up two doors down at a place called Rosemary’s and had a wonderful meal there instead.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Great analysis of Jon Stewart

    Yeah… not really, though. Stewart is a cultural icon, not a political one. And the bit about how his viewers have never considered the issues? Kinda makes that blogger sound like a pompous ass.

  • Jon

    @MikeTheInfidel

    Did you watch the Jonah Goldberg interview? He’s used those same dismissive tactics over and over again. He says something, the audience laughs, issue over.

    And that was the point of the post. Jon Stewart says to his audience not to take him seriously. His interview with Jim Kramer says otherwise. I would say he IS a political icon as well as a cultural icon; I mean look at the guests he has had on his show, President Obama, Newt Gingrich, Jonah Goldberg, to name a scant few. What are they discussing? Politics.

  • muggle

    hey, that’s me with my “In FSM We Trust” sign

    I thought I recognized you, Mike!

    Thanks to everyone who shared photos and bring on more. Man, no way I could have got my walker through that turnout!!! (Yay! Not to being unable to accommodate the disabled but to the turnout that made it difficult to.) I had trouble enough with some of the events we took the grandson to on the 30th. So much so I’m gonna pass next year. :(

    Beck’s still claiming more? (Read somewhere that he’s claiming 300,000 — no way, not even close — and read estimates of up to 250,000 for this one and I don’t think they included the side street jams.) All anybody has to do is google photos of both. There are wide spaces between clumps of people at Beck’s of several feet. My walker (not that it would want to be) would have had no problem attending his. Whereas this one all the photos show y’all shoulder to shoulder. Know that I was with you in spirit.

    I get agitated in close crowds too, Hemant, particularly these days since it scares me with the fear of getting pushed up against with an already unsteady balance. I didn’t so much when I was young except for when I wanted to see and hear and couldn’t. So I understand but you’ve got to look on the up side of it. The numbers were waaayyy stronger than expected. This is most hopeful for America. It is not dead yet. It’s been used and abused by thugs but Lady Liberty is still holding strong.

    And largely white? Eh, perhaps. But the photos I’m looking at have a good share of persons of color too. I didn’t see any in the photos from Beck’s rally. Of course, I wasn’t eagerly looking at every last one, just a couple linked by FB friends and blogs. If you’ve seen any people of color of his rally, feel free to link and prove me wrong. I’m sure there had to a be a couple. Right?

    This is freaking great! Lots of FB friends put Stewart’s final speech on the wall and I thought it was fantastic. I loved the car analogy and there were some really good sound bites. I especially liked his comment that we’re facing hard times, not end times. Nyah Nyah chicken little fundies!

  • muggle

    Oh, Jon, that article? Meh. I like news but put more stock in Stewart and Colbert frankly. And I’m 52. They’re overgeneralizing in that article.

    Er, I also put more stock to what I can find on-line. And I know plenty of other baby boomers who do. In fact, I’d say a lot of us baby boomers are definite internet junkies.

    I am. It’s high priorty paying for internet service even on a pension.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I spent a good bit of time walking around the side streets and other parts of the mall while the rally was ongoing. There seemed to be at least as many people away from (but in the vicinity of) the rally as there were right at the rally.

    I’m at a loss to actually give an estimate.

    I remember a cultural anthropology class I took in college where the primitive society we were studying had no concept of counting. They had words for “one”, “two”, and “many”. Well, there were many many people at the rally! ;)

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    Great bunch of photos showing some cool signs.

  • Jon

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll catch either Stewart or Colbert’s show when it’s on and I think they’re hilarious. But I do find truth to that article because the format of the show only allows for so much time to discuss the issue. Guests are interviewed for only 15 minutes or less to discuss something complex, controversial, or divisive; so perhaps it is ALSO Jon Stewart who is overgeneralizing the issues at hand. Stewart doesn’t push forth any agenda, personal or political, which I’m grateful for, but he is definitely biased. I think another point the author of the post was trying to make was that it’s easier to take on Stewart’s opinion than to actually form one’s own, influenced by the more-than-occasional dismissive gestures from Stewart.

  • Vas

    @ MikeTheInfidel,
    I knew that was you before I saw your post, and man, I’m still amazed at how stunningly gigantic you seem to be. So tell me Mike are there camera tricks used in all your photos, is the photographer on his knees? Last time you stood next to Hemant and I couldn’t figure if it was you who was big or if it was that Hemant was little, and now this shot. So what’s your deal, are you like nine feet tall or some shit? Really this is starting to bug me, would it be possible to kind of squat a little from now on if someone points a camera at you? I guess that’s a bit much to ask, I’ll just stand at my desk when viewing pictures of you on my monitor. Do you drive a convertible?
    Cheers,
    V

  • http://www.unitedcor.org Fred Edwords

    Hemant, you write:

    Brian Fields took this shot of a sidestreet that wasn’t even in the official Rally “area”… which makes me think those crowd estimates were under-reported:

    But this is either a photo of people coming to or leaving the rally, most likely the latter. After the event was over streets were closed to auto traffic from the National Mall north all the way up to K Street, which is about nine blocks, so that people could actually leave.

    Sorry I wasn’t able to make it to the Lauriol Plaza restaurant afterward, but once I boarded a Metro train heading in that direction there was simply no getting off until we were nearly out of the District.

    (Hemant says: My fault for not elaborating. Brian told me that he left the Rally early, and he took this pic as he walked away. So these were people still coming to the Rally.)

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    LOL, vas. The guy in front of me is sitting in a chair, and the guy with the facepaint is a little Mexican guy (the sort with Mayan ancestry who tend to be on the smaller side). I’m only about 6’2″ :P

  • Deanna

    My 14 year old daughter and I were there. We got to the Vienna metro station at 9:30 AM, (last/first stop of the orange line in VA), and got off at the Smithsonian metro exit/entrance at 10:30 AM and immediately started walking up. We passed the “family reunification” tent and got close enough to a jumbotron to see and hear everything by 10:45 AM. Then, we sat down, completely surrounded by standing people. We could hear and see everything on the Jumbotron once we finally stood up.

    I could have lived without the first 45 minutes of the rally. I wasn’t there to hear the Roots or John Legend, but did enjoy the “train” songs simply because Colbert and Stewart were on stage, too.

    Didn’t care for Kid Rock, since I think he qualifies as a douchebag and I thought Stewart didn’t want any of those in attendance.

    Also, we liked the Mythbusters gang, and loved the final 15 minutes, including Jon’s speech. Loved Colbert’s entrance in the Chilean elevator, and his various costumes.

    We ended up eating dinner in the Native American museum, and then took the metro back. Luckily for us, just as went below at the Smithsonian, an empty train appeared, and we were able to sit, all the way back to Vienna.

    We were so glad to be at the rally, to show our support for Stewart and Colbert.

  • CatBallou

    I’ve been to two marches in DC that started on the Mall, and both times there was room to sit down–so my companions and I naively thought we’d have the same situation here. Wow, were we wrong! It was absolutely miserable to just stand for 4+ hours, and for the most part, we couldn’t even see the Jumbotrons. They should have been at least five feet higher to account for all the tall people who were also standing! We didn’t even try to make it to the restaurant. An absolutely exhausting day, but well worth it.
    And regarding Stewart’s “bias,” I don’t think that word conveys anything meaningful. If you mean “prejudiced,” say so. But one can have a bias for reason, or truth, or any other virtue, as well as for a political position. Stewart calls bullshit on a wide variety of positions and people.

  • Betsy

    As far as Stewart’s bias, have you all missed the shows when he has been blatantly calling out the Democrats and Obama himself for their shortcomings? He has certainly not been afraid to both poke fun as well as get serious about the failings of the Democratic Party in recent weeks/months.

    I love Stewart because he gives me a jumping off point when it comes to the news. Watching real news gets me down; Stewart helps me laugh at the crappy environment we live in today, and I think that fills a vital need in our society. Then, if a story catches my eye, I look it up on the internet for more info.

    BTW, I’m not a 20 year old college student either, and neither are any of my friends who love Stewart and Colbert. We’re all in our 30s-40′s. I don’t know where all this talk of mindless college students worshiping Stewart blindly comes from. If there’s any criticism I have of the show it’s when he goes off on a “go f*** yourself” rant. It detracts from the intelligence he and his writers are capable of.

  • Vas

    @MikeTheInfidel
    Thanks for the reply, like I said it was kind of freaking me out, the pictures make it look like you could eat twenty babies for lunch and still have an appetite. I think you need a publicist or handlers to help you control your image or maybe Hemant can help you out and publish at least one photo that shows you to be a regular person of above average height and not a person and a half tall. The little shrimpy people in the foreground are not showing you in the proper light and screw up the perception of perspective and it scares me! Glad you were able to clear it up before my bedtime or I would not be able to sleep tonight. Thanks.
    Cheers,
    V

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Vas,

    I hate to give you nightmares, but has anyone ever seen MikeTheInfidel and The Great Khali in the same room together? They might be the same person.

  • Vas

    Jeff thanks that was sooooo helpful.

  • http://thebibleisuseless.com Jen

    I made Amanda’s sign! I am glad you liked it. I am not so crazy about how the badger turned out. My son and I had a similar experience. We were on the mall, but it was so claustrophobic, and we couldn’t see or hear anything. We spent most of the time circling the edges of the crowd and taking in the signs.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    I will neither confirm nor deny these rumors.

  • Vas

    Oh that’s just great… sunset is in about an hour from where I’m standing.

  • ignoramus012

    I wasn’t able to see or hear any of the actual show, but had a lot of fun walking around looking at all the hillarious costumes and signs. My favorite sign by far, was a man standing next to an “End Road Work” sign yelling “End road work now!”

    And thanks for getting us together at Lauriol! I had a great time talking to Simon Davis and Melody Hensley of the Center for Inquiry. I’m definitely going to start getting involved with them, starting at their Anniversary Fundraiser in a couple weeks.

    –Matt

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    Hemant! I was in that group of Pharyngulites you missed.

    It’s okay, I didn’t realize you were you until after a minute either :D

  • http://Religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Next rally we must get Hemant to agree to dress up in an outrageous easily recognizable costume that can be spotted from a mile away!

  • Mattir

    Your mention of the Pharyngulites made my 15 year old DaughterSpawn’s day, and yes, that was us. We didn’t get to the Lauriol event because of slow service at our restaurant and total exhaustion. Next time, though.

  • James

    Is that Mark Twain in the restaurant picture?

  • Terri

    LoL! Love the pictures. We have much better signs. I loved the “I’m with stupid” one with the arrow pointing up! And the guy in the FSM suit is great!

    I was on a plane back to Iowa from California when this all went on, sure wish wish I could have been there!

    Thanks for the pics!

  • James

    I made the Im With Stupid Sign and the arrow pointing up. I had a great time carrying that sign and I am very happy that the rally had such a great turn out. I wanted a message that conveyed my belief in evolution and science, which many religious individuals have avoided and put down since Charles Darwin first proposed the idea in 1859, with On the Origin of Species.


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