Noblesville, Indiana -- A group of intrepid peace activist Hoosiers (members of CodePINK, Women for Peace) braved a Sarah Palin rally in Noblesville, Indiana yesterday. When we arrived, a country band was playing "Kiss This" which they dedicated to Barack Obama.
It was cold out and the crowd seemed slightly lost, dutifully wearing red as they had been told to, but a little dispirited under the slightly cloudy skies. There were people offering the free tickets at the entrance and we easily found parking in spite of claims in the Indy Star and other local papers that the event was sold out.
Having attended a number of other rallies, I was amazed at the lack of security; no metal detectors, in fact, less security than the average professional concert or football game. We estimated the crowd to be well under the 20,000 reported in the press as the lawn seating was only about half filled right up until the time Sarah Palin arrived.
The crowd rallied for a song called "Drill Here, Drill Now" pointing small American flags in the air, as well as for that old family values tune, "If the House is a Rockin', Don't Come A Knockin'" which was played twice.
Many of the attendees were young; family groups with babies, toddlers and teen-agers in jeans and baseball caps along with a number of small groups of men dressed in business clothes and a few clutches of senior citizen women looking slightly awkward in the concert venue.
Camouflage was a favorite; diaper bags, hats, and even camouflage tie-dye shirts with "Palin Power." Almost no one had McCain shirts or hats; it was all about Sarah.
Snow fences divided the crowd with free tickets from those in the arena who had made at least 100 phone calls for the campaign. A group of shirtless kids on the stage spelled out the word "Maverick" in paint; a giant "Country First" sign flanked one side of the stage with an enormous American flag on the other. Although there was a large green "Mitch" sign as well, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels was a no-show; Daily Kos blogger, "Dhonig", thinks he is hedging his bets and trying to distance himself from the McCain/Palin ticket.
At 5:20, a recorded version of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" came on the loudspeaker, (who knew Republicans were into AC/DC?) although the song with its focus on Texas, guns, and loose women apparently is part of the family values Sarah Palin addressed later (and Verizon Wireless owns the rights to AC/DC's music so since this venue was at the Verizon Center, I guess it was all in the family.)
The crowd started chanting" Sarah! Sarah!" but first they got Indiana Lt. Governor, Becky Skillman, who opened with "Hello Hoosiers!" "Is Indiana a red state? It looks like a red state!" (The Republicans are kind of nervous these days, as Indiana has been shading pink lately on the electoral maps.) She announced that Governor Mitch was named Governor of the Year (we wondered by whom-then she explained: "Governing Magazine") and skipped explaining why he couldn't be there in person.
She told the crowd that "Sarah Palin understands us; she's a mother, a mayor, a moose hunter and a maverick" and with that, the crowd went wild, shaking red and white cheerleader pom poms and their small American flags.
After reminding the audience that Sarah Palin was"real" and had faced the "slick speaking Joe Biden " and noting that Indiana wants to be attractive to business, she wound up with "Sarah Palin wants what we want and she's proved it time and again, keeping one eye on waste and the other on corruption" (no comment on whether she has a third eye trained on Russia). The crowd erupted into shouts of "Country First" and at 5:40, Sarah Palin took the podium in a purple suit jacket (someone forgot to tell her to wear red) and her trademark designer glasses. She rallied the crowd with criticism of the mainstream media to loud boos, her resemblance to Tina Fey (cheers) and noted that the movie "Hoosiers" is at the top of her favorite list of movies. She showcased her knowledge of local culture by invoking the Indianapolis 500 and bragged that her daughter's middle name is "Indy" (apparently for a snowmobile not the race but oh well).
Around the time she started winding the crowd up with accusations about Barack Obama's alleged association with ACORN, it was time for my associates and I to hold up our large pink banner which read, "Silence the Violence" Stop the War!. We also revealed our red shirts had the words "Stop the war" and "Silence the violence" in large letters on the back. When one of our group, Lori Perdue, a US army veteran, started to shout "stop the war" loudly, things got lively- a group of men came over and stood in front of our banner, when we moved, they tried to rip it out of our hands.
A number of state and local troopers then came and stood protectively in front of us (thanks officers) -when the men came around from the back and again grabbed the banner, I said, "sit down" and we sat on it. As the men were getting increasingly physically threatening, the troopers told us we had to leave-and made a ring around us. Lori was still "shouting stop the war" the rest of us concentrated on keeping the banner up.
While there were some people who came up and gave us a hard time, (the usual comments of "traitors" "go die in Iraq" - you know, family friendly advice, several women came up and gave us the peace sign and thanked us. One said, "So you came to see the freak show too!" Two friends who were covering us with a video and still camera said a whole group of people followed us out, holding their hands in peace signs.
This was the point at which Sarah Palin apparently started talking about victory in Iraq. A state trooper told us we would be arrested if we didn't leave and we agreed to leave peacefully. As we got into our car, a woman sarcastically thanked us for "ruining it for her"- It was odd she left, since Sarah Palin hadn't finished speaking; our guess was her husband used our presence as an excuse to leave early.
While protestors from Planned Parenthood and local unions made the newspapers, our exercise in free speech failed to make the news but at least a few people in the crowd thanked us for countering the negative tone of Palin's rally.
Please note: I attended this rally (with a ticket) as a private citizen-comments in this blog are my personal opinion and not connected with any group or organization.