If 10 million gathered for the Rally to Restore Sanity on the mall in Washington, D.C., as Jon Stewart proclaimed (really, probably more like a few hundred thousand), then there were at least 1 million in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park on Saturday (or maybe more like 2,000) all watching a very big-screen TV.
How do you get thousands to come to an urban park for a non-protest TV-watching gathering on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m.? Facebook; the love of comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert; a growing desire to change the discourse and the human need to be in the right place—even if you don’t have enough money to go to the right place. It was a virtual rally.
It was a rally watching a rally. Washington roared, we roared, too. They laughed, we laughed. We were them. Only we had the lure of Langer’s Deli just a block away.
What marked our crowd was – nothing in particular. And this in itself was kind of interesting – and not particularly L.A.-like. It was diverse—every race, every age, every hair color. Some of it not even colored. Purple, green, and very long, very white hair, plus a guy with a black wig and Mr. Spock ears, carrying a sign that said, simply, “Logic.” Not everyone was pretty – this was not a Hollywood crowd. But everyone was relaxed, mellow. Sane. And paying close attention to the TV.
Story continues after the jump.
Video by Jay Firestone and Jeffrey Hensiek
Despite the diversity, there was unity in the camaraderie. If someone with a big sign walked in front of the screen and blocked the view, no one yelled “Down in Front,” but instead gently tapped a shoulder. Manners were at a premium.
A group of four students told me they’d come from Loyola Marymount University, to volunteer on the Green Team. Which meant they’d be getting class credit for community service for sticking around to clean up after the event. “But we don’t expect to have much to do,” one offered. “It’s not a very messy crowd.”
What was probably the most fun were the signs: “I’m not really a sign kind of guy,” one man’s read. “Will be sane for $$,” said another. A touch of hostility in this one: “Hey Tea Party, Shouldn’t You All be in FEMA Internment camps By Now?” (You tell me, what did that mean?)
In May 2007, this same park was the site of a May Day pro-immigration rally that broke into a riot, with police beating protestors and even some journalists. On this day, there was no police presence, and the security detail was concerned only that no one jump up on the empty stage of the Leavitt Pavilion, an outdoor performance venue that was host to the rally.
After the show, a group of random people in dead-people costumes ran out and started line-dancing to a recording of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Tomorrow is Halloween, and a bit of “Flash mob” pre-ordained and slightly rehearsed pageantry seemed in order for L.A. It looked like a somewhat motley audition line for the afterworld. An un-fitting end to a somewhat silly day, that was only a little bit inspirational, if well-meaning.
Blue skies, perfect weather, mellow crowds, aging hippies standling alongside much younger hipsters, everyone with a Facebook page that brought them here. It was the new age of Sanity. What a thought.
More coverage on the Rally to Restore Sanity:
Washington, D.C. - Sanity rally: Now that we are all friends, what do we do?