Two chartered buses packed with around a hundred Torontonians left from the ROM on Friday night en route to Washington, D.C. to take part in (well, more like get caught up in) Saturday’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Hosted by the Janus-face of American political satire, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, the rally—which has also been dubbed “The Million Moderate March”—is providing a loud, colourful, and exceptionally good-humoured forum for the seventy-to-eighty percent of Americans whose opinions have been drowned out by more belligerently vocal fringe groups like the Tea Party and 9/11 Truthers.
And being America’s neglected kid brother, when we at Torontoist heard about the rally, we teamed up with our friends at Eye Weekly to get a load of the whole thing. Because, hey, us too. Right?
After busing through the night, and a brief stop in beautiful Breezewood, P.A. (you’ve never really tasted an Egg McMuffin until you’ve tasted one in the shadow of the majestic Pennsylvania turnpike), we arrived at Robert Kennedy Staidum in Washington, D.C. around 9 a.m., to find a booth selling official rally merchandise was already open. Choicer items included “beanies,” which are what Americans, being wrong, call “toques” ($25) and official “Just in Case” ponchos ($35), despite a fellow Torontonian claiming that the forecast called for a zero-percent chance of rain.
The crowd as of 10 a.m. Saturday morning. They would only multiply. Seemingly exponentially.
But what the forecast did call for was people. Lots of ‘em. An estimated one hundred thousand. In the sixty-plus minutes it took us to cut across the open-air National Mall earlier this afternoon, we must have rubbed shoulders with at least that many. There were sarcastic, apolitical signs—some favourites read: “ANGRY SIGN” “More Doctors, Less Jails,” “The Chinaman Is Not the Issue,” “My arms are tired,” et cetera.
We also saw signs of the non-satiric, altogether sincere radical political elements the rally was organized in defiance of, including a Rolling Tea Party truck and a family of 9/11 Truthers (poor kids). There were also plenty of mock Obama-as-Hitler signs, repurposed Culpepper flags, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster pamphleteers, Onion newsies, Marxists of the Groucho and Harpo variety, and even a guy dressed up as Doctor Zoidberg from Futurama. Because why not?! It’s a political rally!
You’d think all these ironists would have a better sense of irony. Or maybe it’s so refined, it’s no longer ironic at all.
At noon sharp, The Roots took the stage to a crowd mostly too far back to see them. And when Jon Stewart got on stage a little bit later, he tried to get the enormous crowd to count itself. It’s sounds like a joke. But it’s actually a bit insane how many people are here. And how many of them, under any other circumstances, may be themselves considered insane (i.e. the Ben Franklin guy running around yelling “SNAKES!”). It’s hard to tell if a lot of the people here are self-identified political moderates, or just apolitical smartasses who have watched too much Colbert. There’s also a strong contingent who just seem to want to get more mileage out of their Halloween costumes.
But it’s like they say: everything in moderation. Including moderation.
We’ll have a more full report and rally recap on Monday (even though you’re probably all watching it on TV now anyhow). Until then, enjoy our photos, and follow the #tosanity tag on Twitter to keep abreast of our movements.
Photos by Christopher Drost/Torontoist.