Here’s my pictorial recap of the events of 9/12 during my trip to Washington DC.
This first picture is blurry, but that’s because I’m standing in a moving subway car as I’m snapping the photo.
When I stepped on the DC Metro’s Red Line subway in Rockville, Maryland, I encountered several people from Norwalk, Ohio, who had boarded the subway at the Shady Grove station. The reason for their subway trip was obvious by the protest signs they held: They were on their way to the 9/12 rally. They spotted me and said “There’s somebody from Ohio!” I made an excellent choice in choosing to wear an Ohio State Buckeyes t-shirt on 9/12, because I was greeted by Ohioans everywhere I went. Not only did I meet Ohioans from Norwalk, I met them from all over the state: Amherst, Lorain, Cleveland, Youngstown, Columbus, Cincinnati, Sharonville, Mason, Delaware, Toledo, Newark, Marion, Portsmouth, Lebanon, Lima, Moraine, Akron, Sidney, Perrysburg, Maumee, Westlake, North Olmsted, Fairborn, Beavercreek, Enon, New Carlisle, Lancaster, Powell, and so on and so forth.
When the subway rolled into DC to pick up local commuters, you should have seen the looks on the faces of the locals. I don’t think they’d ever before seen such a collection of independents and conservatives descending upon the capital in droves. I think they’d only seen liberals march on Washington before. The look on faces of the locals? They looked like they were seeing ghosts.
When we hopped off the subway, I guess we had supposed that the rally would be like a political party convention, grouped by states. We were more amateur than that. It was messier than that. We combed through crowds, looking at everyone’s signs, seeing if there was a designated gathering point for Ohioans. Apparently, there wasn’t. Whoever the speakers were for the rally, it didn’t matter, because the low, faint rumble emanating from the feeble sound system wasn’t intelligible in the ruckus of the oversized crowd that couldn’t even fit onto Freedom Square.
After a while, some got tired of milling around the square unable to hear the audio, so they began heading down Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill about half-an-hour to an hour ahead of schedule. It was good that they got underway, even though it was early, because there wasn’t enough space for all of us to converge on Freedom Square at once, anyway.
After people started marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, I caught a glimpse of Ohio’s distinctively-shaped State Flag, and I gravitated toward it, as many Ohioans followed suit.
Do you see the Ohio flag held high aloft between two lamp posts on the right half of the photo? There’s another Ohio flag on the left half of the photo, not held quite so high, as well as an OSU Buckeye banner almost dead center above the crowd. I tried to stay within about three blocks of the flags. When I, and others, were concerned that we’d strayed beyond the Ohio contingent, we’d reassure ourselves that we were still surrounded by fellow Ohioans by shouting “O-H,” which would receive the thunderous response of “I-O!” That’s how we stayed in touch with each other through the densely-packed mayhem of the march to the Capitol. It was plainly evident to me that thousands, yes, thousands, of Ohioans were present, not to mention that I encountered individuals from all 50 (57?) states during the day’s events.
Can you see the Capitol’s dome in the chasm between the buildings that line Pennsylvania Avenue?
During the march, cheers erupted as marchers beheld the side of a building which had the words of the First Amendment etched into the stone.
The steps of the Capitol were cordoned off, so there were limits as to how closely we could approach. Also, near the Capitol, I encountered a C-Span staffer who was bemoaning his plight to a DC security officer. Apparently, the crowd was so packed, the C-Span staffer couldn’t wend his way to the media camera banks, and, in fact, he told the security officer he wasn’t exactly sure where the camera banks were set up, as he hadn’t even been able to catch a glimpse of the camera banks. I briefly accosted the C-Span staffer to ask if it was possible for the public to tour the C-Span studios. He said “no,” that one must know somebody on C-Span staff to gain access to the network’s facilities.
I feel sorry for the families who brought their kids along on the march, as public toilet facilities were so scarce that I don’t know how people with little bladders were going to make it through the day’s activities. Yes, there were a few port-a-potties, but the operative word is “few.” Just as the sound system was inadequate for the size of the crowd, so was the number of port-a-potties.
Despite the inadequacy of the sound system, there was a moment on the Capitol Hill lawn when the whole crowd took notice of a sound that came from the microphone. Someone had started to sing our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and everyone stood at attention and doffed their hats. The crowd joined in the singing, but the crowd sang along in a whisper, whether to avoid drowning out the singing that could be faintly heard from the microphone, or whether from the inability to sing louder on the account of being emotionally choked up, it was hard to say. For me, I was emotionally choked up, and I silently mouthed the words during the occasions when my voice faltered. Applause erupted at the conclusion of the song, and faint garbled speech resumed.
The ground is fairly level in DC, so it was impossible for me to access a vantage point where I could snap a picture to encompass the entire crowd, but I tried.
Though I was in attendance, I really have no idea how many people were there. If you’re looking for a discussion of the numbers in attendance, I suggest that you take a look at Pajamas Media, where Charlie Martin has two articles, here and here, that attempt to estimate the size of the crowd.