Presidential Rally at U of MN

Here’s the write up of my experiences at President Obama’s rally on the University of MN campus this past Saturday.

The Line

Wow, The Line. 

The Hubby and I left the house at 11:15am.  President Obama was rumored to be speaking at about 3pm, and local dignitaries and politicians would start speaking about 1pm.  We figured we’d get in line around noon and have a couple of hours to get seated.  As we were leaving the apartment, we heard an MPR correspondant says that thousands of people had already lined up to hear President Obama speak.  I really had no idea what thousands of people might look like, but we had heard that the Fieldhouse could hold 7,000 people so we decided to try our luck in line.  It turns out that thousands (lower-case “t”) in a stadium is nothing, but when you make all of those people stand in a single/double-file line Thousands (big freaking capital “T”) is a hell of a lot of people.

We rode our bikes from our home in LynLake to the rally on the U of MN’s East Bank.  The Fieldhouse is at 18th St. and University Ave.  We rode up University and parked our bikes when we came to road blocks at 16th Street.  We started to walk east up University toward the Fieldhouse, but were redirected by security.  Crowd control was pretty lousy from where we started – there were no signs or rally volunteers to direct us to the end of the line.  We had no idea where we were going, and so we decided to follow the small group ahead of us who were wearing U of MN sweatshirts and jackets and saying words like Obama, line, and Washington Avenue.

Below is a map of the East Bank campus.  The red line is the path we walked from our bikes to the end of the line.  The yellow circles are the Fieldhouse where President Obama spoke and the overflow seating in the Sports Pavillion where the Hubby and I ended up – more on that later.  The blue line…that was The Line.

These are some pictures from The Line.

This was our first view of The Line as we came around the west side of Northrup Auditorium.   This is the NW corner of the Mall.

After walking down the Mall and around Kolthoff Hall, we finally found the end of The Line outside of the Wiseman art center.  We were actually on the Washington Avenue footbridge for a while.

Ah, chalk art advertising!  I’d forgotten all about this college campus mode of communication.

This was when we turned onto Church Street.  I believe that’s Lind Hall on the right.

Trekking between Lind Hall and the Engineering buildings.  Doesn’t that statue look like it’s saying “Yes We Can!  Only a few more feet!”

After walking a few blocks along Washington Avenue we took a left at Walnut Street and filed up past the McNamara Alumni Center and back down the Aquatic Center. 

The Umbrella Tree – Rally volunteers were announcing that no umbrellas would be allowed inside the Fieldhouse, so this tree was being decorated with pretty ornaments. 

Next we took a jaunt up Scholar’s Walk.  It was here that we started hearing rumors that the Fieldhouse had filled to capacity and that the Fire Marshall was rerouting us to overflow viewing.  A good number of people left the line, but I’d guess about 500 people or so stayed and filed into the Sports Pavillion to see President Obama speak on a big screen.  By this time it was almost 3pm so we had missed all of Mark Dayton’s speech as well as Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. 

The big screens were actually two screens back-to-back so that each side of the bleachers could be utilized for seating.  The absolute worst infomercials were playing while we waited for President Obama’s speech to begin!

*sigh* This was as close to our President as we got.  But hey – the seating was comfy and we had an excellent view of the screen.

The Demonstrators

One of the things that I really like about big political events like this are the demonstrators.  I like seeing people get out and get excited about their views, projects and groups.  So I was a little bummed out that we saw less than ten groups demonstrating.  I mean – captive audience, people!  I only saw two “anti” signs – one against the current administration and one against democrats.  I saw two anti-war groups, a small contingent from the Minneapolis Urban League advertising an upcoming event, one guy with a sign about ending violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt (?), and there was one Green party group handing out fliers.  The most organized group was from the MN Committee to Stop FBI Repression.  They had people along the entire route handing out fliers  to bring attention to the September FBI raids on seven Chicago and Minneapolis homes of anti-war protesters.

The lady with the yellow sign is not so happy with the way things are going in our country. 

Yay! This is the kind of thing I was hoping to see.  The Radical Roosters had a small group of people dancing and chanting up and down the Mall.

“Democrats Flush Away Prosperity”  Is that why my toilet sometimes gets clogged?

A protester against persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

One of the many anti-FBI repression protesters.

The Talk

According to the MNDaily, approximately 11,000 people attended the President’s speech, which lasted about 30 minutes. 

The energy in the Sports Pavillion wasn’t very high.  One lady came in before the speech and gave a half-hearted try at riling up the crowd.  She yelled “Is everyone fired up…”  and a few people chimed in “And ready to go!”  She yelled a few more times and each time a few more people joined in, but it didn’t really get going.  Everyone was pretty quiet and probably subdued from standing in line for 2+ hours and then finding out that we weren’t going to see the President in person. 

I thought that President Obama’s talk was pretty standard fare.  He implored the audience to get out and vote, and to support Mark Dayton in the upcoming November 2nd elections.  He highlighted the government’s successes of health care reform, the federal stimulus, bringing troops home from Iraq and credit card reform, and reminded people that he’s got ambitious plans for improving the deficit and unemployment in his next two years in office.  He attempted to drum up enthusiasm and urged the audience not to forget all of the hard work we did in 2008, and to not lose the enthusiasm that has brought us to where we are today.

A few remarks did get audience-wide applause, but ours usually ended well before the live audience had wrapped it up next door.  For a while we thought we might have a visit from one of the bigwigs because bomb-sniffing dogs were led around the aisles and people sitting by one of the far doors were being individually scanned with metal detector wands.  But alas, as soon as the President’s speech was over people shot up and walked for the doors.  

All in all, it was a good experience.  It was definitely exciting to be surrounded by so many pro-Obama enthusiasts, and it was neat to know that President Obama was visiting my city.  The pain of The Line was tempered by the group think that We Were All In This Together.  I wish that the speech hadn’t been quite so standard; I had watched video from his other stops in Las Vegas and California and a lot of the same material was reused, but what can you do?  The wins are the wins, the challenges are the challenges, we are where we are right now. 

I’d do it again.  But I’d definitely queue up earlier!

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One Response to “Presidential Rally at U of MN”

  1. CUP Contest #4 (via Biodork) « Le Café Witteveen Says:

    […] Take a little time on her blog. She recently wrote about going to see President Obama. […]

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