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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stewart/ Colbert "Sanity" Rally Draws Thousands Of Voters

Stewart's Rally For "Sanity" Draws Insane Crowd

“Good luck trying to get through that crowd to the stage.”

Those were the first words I heard within 15 minutes of joining the large crowd that flocked to the National Mall Saturday for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear hosted by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

To say that you couldn’t see the stage, or even hear it, wouldn’t be an exaggeration— many had to climb a tree (literally) to even catch a glimpse of the one jumbo TV screen.

“We did the march-of-the-penguins walk in the crowd for about an hour,” Georgetown University student Anam Raheem told me. “But it was too crowded; we had to turn back.”

Thousands of rally goers brought signs and costumes in support of politically hot-button issues.

“I came to meet some people,” said Mark Feeney, a resident of Buffalo, New York who sported a green outfit with a sign that displayed the benefits of marijuana. “But we have to be smart, not stupid. If we legalize pot, we’ll create more revenue and jobs.”

Although Proposition 19, which would legalize recreational marijuana in California, was one of the more common issues seen on signs, other topics were equally supported, such as abortion, equality for gays, space travel, and most vehemently, backlash against the Tea Party movement.

“I came to have fun,” Pennsylvania resident Eric Hafner said, “But we need to also show people that extremism is really overblown.”

Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell was most widely targeted, with many rally goers dressed as witches or giant tea bags, holding signs that read, “Tea Party rallies need more tea.”

Despite both Stewart and Colbert’s appeal to a younger generation, there was an eclectic age range of rally goers, including marijuana-supporting seniors.

“We love both the ‘Daily Show’ and ‘The Colbert Report,'” said Diane Gatley who is 61. “Back to sanity for us. They’re truthy.”

Although the stage and entertainment was unseeable for at least half the rally goers there, there was a sense of community support that’s hard to find on a daily basis.

As one rally goer attempted to scale a tree for a better view of the stage, the crowd chanted, “Yes, you can!"

Stewart, Colbert Preside Over Light-Hearted, Star-Studded D.C. Rally

Assisted by a colorful cast of characters, Comedy Central funnymen Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a raucous rally on the National Mall Saturday in typical fashion before a cheering throng of supporters.

Amidst all the hilarity, however, the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" carried a message about Americans turning their backs on hate and working together to make the world a better place.

Stewart and Colbert staged a mock battle, with Stewart supporting peace and sanity and Colbert promoting fear before a crowd that stretched nearly the length of the mall, most of the distance between the Capitol and the Washington Monument.

During the rally's opening, Colbert appeared on a video screen, saying he was trapped in his "fear bunker" and worried no one had shown up. Drawn by cheers, however, Colbert ascended to the stage in a device like that used to bring up the trapped Chilean miners earlier this month, wearing a superhero costume.

Former "Saturday Night Live" character Father Guido Sarducci -- played by comedian Don Novello -- provided a benediction, thanking God for "making it so easy to find parking spaces." And actor Sam Waterston of "Law and Order" fame read a poem entitled "Are You Sure?" about fears including "funnel clouds and hail/Anthrax in the mail ... someone's robbing your house/I can see through your blouse/Your mother was right, you chose the wrong spouse."

Cat Stevens, also known as Yusuf Islam, sang his song "Peace Train" as part of a duel with Ozzy Osbourne singing "Crazy Train." Stewart stopped Osbourne, rooting for Islam, as Colbert urged Osbourne on. The two compromised on the O'Jays, who showed up to sing their hit "Love Train."

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and "Star Wars" robot R2-D2 showed up to provide a lesson in tolerance and against stereotyping. "We're all on the same team," said Abdul-Jabbar, referencing Colbert and Stewart's discussion about Muslims.

There were some serious notes struck during the event, however. Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow performed a musical number about changing the world, including the lyrics, "The least that I can do is care."

And as the rally drew to a close, Stewart spoke about resisting fearmongering and working together, saying most Americans don't live their lives solely as Republicans or Democrats, but as "people who are just a little bit late for something they have to do, often something they do not want to do. But they do it."

Some may paint the nation as fragile and torn by hate, he said, "but the truth is ... we work together to get things done every damn day."

"There will always be darkness, and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the promised land," Stewart said. "Sometimes it's just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together."

Stewart awarded his "Medals of Reasonableness" to recipients including Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, who lost a perfect game in June when an umpire mistakenly called what would have been the last batter safe at first base despite the fact replays showed he was clearly out. Galarraga, who lives in Venezuela, accepted via videotape, telling the audience the umpire is "a good man."

Another recipient was Velma Hart, chief financial officer for AMVETS, who challenged President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting in September; and comedian and wrestler Mick Foley; and Jacob Isom. A video of Isom telling how he swiped a kerosene-soaked Quran from would-be burners, telling them, "Dude, you have no Quran," went viral, and was set to a dance mix.

Colbert's "Medals of Fear" went to recipients including a 7-year-old girl who he said had more courage than the media organizations who did not send representatives to cover the rally out of fear they would appear biased, as well as to "Anderson Cooper's tight black T-shirt." Colbert said that when CNN's Cooper "shows up on your front yard, you know something terrible has happened in your community." A small black T-shirt was brought on stage on a hanger, and the medal hung on it.

Stewart and Colbert announced the rally in September, less than three weeks after conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck hosted a much-publicized "Restoring Honor" rally on the National Mall, urging large crowds to "turn back to God" and return America to the values on which it was founded.

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Sources: CBC, CBS News, CNN, Daily Beast, Fox News, MSNBC, Youtube, Google Maps

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