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U students join ‘sanity’ rally in D.C. and Minn.

About 100 people attended a simultaneous broadcast in St. Paul of the D.C. event.
U students join ‘sanity’ rally in D.C. and Minn.

WASHINGTON, D.C., âÄî Bearing signs with slogans proclaiming “On the whole IâÄôm rather grunted,” and “IâÄôm mad as hell but mostly in a passive-aggressive way,” a crowd of about 215,000 counted down the final seconds before a rally some people traveled from across the
country to attend.

The Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” took place at noon, Saturday in Washington, D.C. But many showed up as early as 8 a.m. to stake their spot on the eastern side of the National Mall.

Benjamin Wenker, a University of Minnesota fourth year, did not make it until past 11 a.m., and had to stand almost four blocks from the stage. He watched on a JumboTron as the comedians criticized radicalism in bipartisan politics and its reflection in the mainstream media.

Stewart said too much debate obscures reality, and while most people are willing to cooperate, the media often distorts this.

“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing,” Stewart said.

Wenker said he expected the rally to be more grandiose, and despite the crowdâÄôs size and enthusiasm, “it was kind of low-key.”

Wenker said the speech âÄî though enjoyable âÄî was almost cheesy. “It wasnâÄôt an âÄòI have a dreamâÄô moment.”

Nonetheless, he said attending the rally was worth the trip.

University graduate student Frazer Heinis agreed. Heinis was worried the eventâÄôs comedy would be excessive but was pleased with how it turned out. He said he wasnâÄôt “put off by any of the antics on the stage.”

Both said the event was more than a comedy stunt. Heinis said he believes the rally will have consequences.

“I really did feel that this was a powerful event,” he said.

The D.C. rally was a mix of musical numbers and comedy revolving around Stewart and ColbertâÄôs debate over whether fear or sense should rule.

The musical lineup included The Roots, John Legend, Ozzy Osbourne and Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam. Stewart and Colbert were joined by the crowd as they sang a duet: “ThereâÄôs no one more American than me.”

Stewart said he was very grateful to all those who attended.

“Your presence is what I wanted,” he said.

In his original announcement of the event on The Daily Show in mid-September, Stewart said “If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence … we couldnâÄôt. ThatâÄôs sort of the point.”

Stewart concluded the event with an explanation of his intention for the rally âÄî to gather people who felt media attention and political agendas were too focused on the radical minority.

MinnesotaâÄôs satellite rally

A number of satellite rallies and meet-ups were initiated across the country for all those who couldnâÄôt make it to D.C.

A group of volunteers organized a rally in St. Paul, and more than 100 people packed into the state Capitol rotunda for the Rally to Restore Sanity – Minnesota.

Most advertising for the rally was done through Facebook, and Dan Stevens, one of the organizers for the event, said it went viral.

Stevens also said the event was meant to echo StewartâÄôs call on The Daily Show to “take it down a notch, America.”

“ItâÄôs really about all of us standing together and saying we can be reasonable,” Stevens said.

Despite attempts to keep the event nonpartisan, political messages appeared in speeches.

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner, an Independent whoâÄôs touted his ability to bridge the partisan gap, spoke at the rally. He said this election was about finding common ground and working together. He also took jabs at his opponents and at current Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Horner then urged people to vote for the candidate they think is “the best out there.”

“HereâÄôs the challenge I make to you,” he said. “Vote for the person you believe is going to take Minnesota into a better future.”

Grace Kelley of the University of Minnesota chapter of Students for a Democratic Society spoke shortly after Horner. Kelley criticized the governmentâÄôs involvement in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shortly into her speech, a rally organizer held up a sign in front of Kelley saying no political speeches were allowed. When Kelley continued, the D.C. rally was cranked up to drown out her voice. The organizer then yanked out the microphone cord âÄî so Kelley stepped in front of the podium and yelled her message before being ushered off stage.

Kelley said rally organizers had asked SDS to speak and they were given no guidelines on what to say.

“I donâÄôt think itâÄôs fair or in the spirit of a rally to restore sanity for me to be removed from the stage so forcibly,” she said.

For St. Paul resident Linda Pearl, 54, the rally was a way to show that there are those who have less extreme ideas on public policy than pundits on television.

“The cable stations peddle more opinion and entertainment than facts and the behavior I was seeing by adults on TV was abhorrent,” she said. “We expect sports figures to be role models for children in behavior but not, apparently, politicians and pundits.”

Pearl admires political satirists as they use humor to help break through the anxiety and fear that occur in political situations.

“I firmly believe in the power of humor to defuse and open up communication,” she said.

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