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Americas

Comedians host 'sanity' rally ahead of midterm election

Video by Nicolas Germain , Kathryn STAPLEY

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-01

The "Rally to Restore Sanity" organised by US comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert drew thousands to Washington DC on Saturday, in an event largely seen as a backlash against the conservative Tea Party movement.

AFP - Thousands of people streamed onto Washington's National Mall Saturday for a rally hosted by liberal comics Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, billed as an antidote to the ugly political mood dividing America ahead of midterm elections.


"It's chaotic but sane. There are a ton of diverse, happy people," said James Cuizon, who had traveled from Hawaii to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and the parallel March to Keep Fear Alive and was on the chilly Mall hours before the events were due to kick off at noon.

Although the organizers insist it is non-political, many see the rally as a liberal response to the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, which has held events across America to oppose what it views as growing government intrusion into their lives.

The right-wing movement has helped mobilize opposition to the policies of President Barack Obama, whose Democratic Party is expected to suffer severe losses to Republicans in Tuesday's legislative and gubernatorial elections.

Conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck appalled liberals in August when he hosted a rally "to restore honor" on the anniversary and at the site, on the Mall, of civil rights leader Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech.

At least 80,000 people -- hundreds of thousands according to organizers -- turned out at Beck's rally to show their opposition to Obama and what they call his administration's big government or "socialist" policies.

Two weeks later, Stewart and Colbert, considered two of the funniest men in America thanks to their primetime political satire shows on Comedy Central, announced twin rallies on the Mall which were later combined into one.

The name "The Rally to Restore Sanity" is an unabashed dig by Stewart at Beck's event. Colbert branded his event the "March to Keep Fear Alive" in keeping with his role as mock conservative foil to the liberal Stewart.

The organizers describe the rally as a 21st century version of the Woodstock music festival held in upstate New York in the midst of the Vietnam War, "but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement."

Darlene Hall, an American who sought refuge in Canada with her conscientious objector husband on the first day of the Woodstock festival in 1969, was watching the rally on television from her home in Ontario.

"This is Woodstock 2010 for the people, by the people and of the people," she said. "The silent majority is speaking up."

The three-hour rally will feature sets by musicians, a rendition of the US national anthem by an unnamed artist, and, of course, appearances by Stewart and Colbert.

A quarter of a million people from around the United States, Canada and central America have said on the rally's Facebook pages that they are coming to Washington for the event.

Hundreds more will attend spin-off events around the United States and world, from one described as "at the Gazebo in the park, just north of the fire station" in Memphis, Tennessee, to one near the Eiffel Tower in Paris and another at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque in Israel.

Barbara Benagh, who flew in from Boston, said on the rally's Facebook page: "After months of depressing displays, we can't wait to see other sane people and feel better."

The event has become "an assertion of left-wing values" not seen since January 2009, when some 1.5 million people overflowed the Mall for Obama's inauguration, Anna Fifield wrote in London's Financial Times.

Manuel Diaz flew in from Nicaragua, and Geneva Kantner caught a midnight flight from Seattle, on the west coast, to be at the event.

Trains from New York and Baltimore were sold out, according to travellers headed to the rally.

Stephen Williams from South Carolina said on Facebook that "every single person on the shuttle from the airport was attending the rally."

Mike Carpick said the 30-floor hotel he was staying in was full, with almost everyone in town for the rally. Patty Dreyer, who flew in Friday evening from Minnesota, told AFP her flight and hotel were both full of people headed to the event.

What now for Obama?

 

Date created : 2010-10-30

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