As the tourists head back home and the porta potties make their way off The Mall, a few We Love DC writers and I look back at yesterday’s event and offer our experiences and instant reactions. Be sure to also catch Karl’s reaction and discussion of the attendance numbers as well.
Tom: When it became clear at 10am that crowds were already streaming into the grounds on the Mall, we decided that our best bet was to watch the events from a bar. As reports streamed in citing capacity metro trains and overfull metro buses, we decided to risk driving to Church Key, figuring that parking would be possible where mass transit was not. We arrived just after noon as Church Key opened, taking a center booth while the Roots and John Legend warmed up the crowd. As soon as we saw the wide shots, we knew that we were much happier with some tater tots and Aventinus beer than we would be, unable to hear or see at 11th street.
Though we arrived at Church Key early, when it was nearly empty, by 1:30, the place was filling up, and by 2:30, the place was standing room only, with rallygoers who’d given up on the Mall. The place was an absolute zoo, and eventually they started a line outdoors to make sure they weren’t totally overrun. The crowd was very much into the Rally, and had everyone’s rapt attention, right up to the fake ad, at which point the whole bar tuned out for a good long time. It wasn’t until Jon Stewart took the stage in the rally’s waning minutes that things perked up again. Shortly thereafter, Tony Bennett’s America the Beautiful drew the only ovation of the day.
As we left at 4:30, we came outside to see the line to get in continuing to grow, and a mass-migration of rallygoers coming up 14th street bound for U Street. Everyone seemed pretty positive, if tired, as they walked past. Good show, DC. Good show.
Katie: Headed out with my parents from Arlington around 10 a.m. and walked to Rosslyn to have the advantage of two lines to ride. Turns out, it didn’t matter – we had to let five trains pass us by – I complain about the Orange Line during daily commuting rush hour but this made me reconsider my position.The fare-card line was out the gates at Rosslyn. I have NEVER seen that many people trying to use Metro (for the record, I walked to Inauguration). We finally gave up and took the blue line to Franconia and got off at Arlington Cemetary to walk over the bridge. We passed the Monument and the traffic flow got much heavier and by the time we got to 7th street right around noon we were stuck without being able to get much further up. We set down our blanket along the grass, but soon there was a bunch of foot traffic through the picnic area so all the people who had blankets were getting walked on and so we all stood up with everyone else. The signs were the best part, and people were pretty friendly and happy for being packed in like sardines. About 45 minutes later we still couldn’t hear so we left and went home to watch it on the DVR. So we came, we saw, and we conquered. My parents were glad to see the signs and all the people and excitement and it was such a pretty day outside that nobody was upset about all the walking we did. All in all – a total DC experience!
Rachel: It took nearly an hour and a half to commute from Tenleytown in NW DC to reach the site of the rally. After three packed-to-capacity rail cars passed the hundreds of people impatiently waiting to step foot onto a train, my friends and I hopped on a train headed toward Maryland, got off four stops later, and then waited about another 20 minutes for a train back into the city. Along the way, we made a few “friends” from out of town. One even over heard me asking my friends for a piece of gum and a complete stranger asked me if I would like a piece. Everyone was in such high spirits. I think Jon Stewart’s goal of getting America to chill out a little was the tone set for all in attendance. I’ve never seen more people in one place in my entire life. The National Mall was a sea of people that felt like a never-ending mosh pit. There was an overall jolly atmosphere surrounding Washington. Everyone, as far as I could tell, was having fun. I think that’s the most important thing to take away from the rally itself — that we really can all get along sometimes if we just take a minute to chill out and have a good laugh.
Patrick: Like my fellow writers and countless others that day I shared my frustrations with the Metro system. While I’m not surprised that this event would crash the system, I am frustrated that WMATA didn’t do more ahead of the event. I don’t know if they underestimated the attendance of the Rally but I thought they could of done more to accommodate the day’s demands that would end up setting record levels in Metro usage that day. After grabbing a pre-rally breakfast with my friends we walked to the Court House Metro station knowing that trains were already coming into Arlington packed. We decided to try for a bus but the 38B drove by us full we decided to drive instead. Amazingly enough 395 was smooth the entire way into Capitol Hill, where we found parking on the street and walked easily to the Rally.
Crowds were already pushing back to 9th street where we entered the fray. We couldn’t hear or see much but we appreciated the signs and costumes while working our way closer to the screens. Eventually we got to a spot where we could see and hear the rest of the rally. The rally was everything I expected it to be: music acts, entertaining banter from hosts Stewart & Colbert, and very little politicking. Instead the Stewart ended the rally with a message not for or against a certain side, but to take things in perspective and to avoid the extremism in today’s 24-7 news cycle. The crowd certainly reflected that message with a friendly mood that didn’t mind being squished in among thousands of others. As I left I noticed two ralliers return to pick-up forgotten signs, not wanting to leave litter on The Mall. As I said in my earlier post, The Rally To Restore Sanity would go down as one of the more memorable live events I’ve attended in DC and it lived up to that promise.
How was your rally experience this weekend?