You know sometimes when you have something in your mind, and you create the image so perfectly and it's so great, that when the actual event comes to pass, it can just never match up? After being so overwhelmed and awestruck at the Alaska Women Reject Palin rally that happened a couple weeks ago here in Anchorage, I started to imagine what today's "Hold Palin Accountable Rally," might be like.
My mind movie featured a glorious autumn day, with blue sky, white clouds and golden leaves. I didn't know how many people might come, but I suspected it would be even more than the 1500 that were there at the last rally. I imagined all sorts of new and creative signs, designed to send a message to Sarah Palin, to the Alaska Legislature, to the McCain campaign, but most of all to our fellow Americans in the rest of the country.
Frankly, many Alaskans have felt a bit like we're living in the Dr. Seuss story, "Horton Hears a Who." If you're not familiar with this tale, it involves thousands of tiny people who live on a dust speck, and no matter how loudly they yell, no one can seem to hear them. They keep screaming "We are here! We are here! We are here!" but to no avail. It takes a moment of real desperation, and the participation of every little Who in Whoville, but finally their cries are heard.
That was my mind movie. As I sucked down my coffee this morning driving into town with my camera and my sign, I wanted to kick myself. I feared that this image I had created, of thousands of Alaskans yelling "We are here!" and the media actually listening was just going to set me up for disappointment. At the last rally, which turned out to be the largest political rally in the history of Alaska, there was virtually no media coverage. There were a couple print journalists, and one radio person, but no TV cameras. The real exposure of this event came from bloggers, folks with video cameras putting clips on YouTube, and mass emailings from friend to friend with attached pictures, and accounts of the rally from locals.
The day started out exactly as I had imagined -- a gorgeous slightly chilly fall morning, with sunshine aplenty. I arrived really early, and the sight of an empty park made my stomach shrink, even though the rally was not due to begin for another hour. I made another quick sign. The time went fast. I started hearing honking horns and realized that sign wavers had started to gather along the road. I looked at my watch....12:00. Not nearly as many people as I had hoped. Stomach shrank more. Then I thought....well...it's a beautiful day. People are out enjoying the weather, and hiking. Maybe I should have hoped for clouds. It would be OK, I told myself. Historically, anything over 25 people at a sign waving event in Anchorage is a rousing success. I had to remember this. And people may have just had one good rally in them and that was that.
I started snapping pictures of signs. There were some really good ones. My favorite? "Hey, Sarah! I can see the end of your political career from my house!" That cheered me up. After 20 or 30 minutes of photographing signs, I looked around. I don't know why I hadn't noticed, but a massive influx had happened. Both sides of the city block between 9th and 10th Avenue were packed! I went across the street to the opposite corner to get a good shot of everyone, and... I was not alone. Cameras everywhere! Local TV news from every station, the Anchorage Daily News, unmarked video cameras in various sizes, photographers with lenses 2 feet long scurrying around, people with hand-held devices talking to protesters.... It took my breath away. I had to stop what I was doing, and just stand, and look.
I said it after the last rally, and I'll say it again. This does not happen here.
There were 1500 protesters at the last rally. This time there were more. Someone said they heard a Daily News reporter say he was going to "call it 1000 people." That Daily News Reporter was obviously not at the other rally. I'm telling you now, it was way more than 1000, and more than 1500.
After an hour or so, we were all called to the main stage to hear the speakers. It was difficult to pull ourselves away from the road. There was an incredible amount of support from honking cars, and drivers waving and giving "thumbs up." There were amazing signs. There were pitbull masks. There was a guy dressed like Richard Nixon. There were live chickens. Yes, a woman had a cage of live chickens beneath her sign that read, "Sarah, Don't Chicken Out!"
The one that really got to me, though, was the sign held by a sweet little lady who stood alone with her back to the stage. It read "I'm the mother of the 'rogue' Walt Monegan, and I Love Him." People were rendered speechless, and kept stopping, one by one, to shake her hand, and tell her how much her son was loved and appreciated. Walt is the ex-commissioner of Public Safety that Palin fired because he refused to fire her trooper ex-brother-in-law, that went through a messy divorce battle with Palin's sister. A real human face was put to this situation. That good man who has not only lost his job unjustly, but has been ripped apart in the press by ex-KTUU anchorwoman, now Palin mouthpiece, Meg Stapleton, and Bush-McCain lawyer Ed O'Callaghan, has a Mom, and she is not happy.
The speakers were great. CC from KUDO radio, Shannyn Moore from Air America, Ron Devon reading a letter of support from Rep. Les Gara who was out of state, Libby Roderick, local folk singing legend, John Cyr, head of the troopers' union, and many more. The greatest of all was the final speaker -- Walt Monegan's mom. She stood up, obviously emotional, and thanked the crowd for their support. "I never knew so many people loved Walt," she said, her voice quivering a little. She talked about her son, and that he was a good man. "I'm going to cry......I don't know what else to say but, thank you!" She sat down again, and mopped her eyes, and the crowd went wild.
At the end of the day, there was a huge stack of petition sheets signed, over a dozen newly registered voters, a ton of news coverage, and more than 1500 Alaskans who had their say.
Next week, a small group will take the stack of petitions and deliver them to the Attorney General's office. There is already conversation about when the next rally will happen. Alaskans, like the Whos in that Dr. Seuss story are trying very hard to be heard. So, America....listen up!
We want our Governor held accountable.
We want an end to the stonewalling in the legitimate investigation by the Alaska State Legislative Council.
We want the resignation of the Alaska State Attorney General Talis Colberg who told state employees they could ignore legal subpoenas.
And we want the McCain campaign and their cadre of lawyers out of our state government!
WE ARE HERE! WE ARE HERE! WE ARE HERE!
For a large photo gallery of the rally, visit Mudflats.