Freedom of Assembly

Last weekend TV personality, Glenn Beck, held a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I hadn’t heard much about it but I wanted to see any kind of gathering in such a historical place. The news mentioned there could be some tension or if I was lucky–violence. I’ve never been a very political person but what else am I suppose to do in Washington D.C. by myself? So off to the metro I went.

The sidewalks were pretty full from the Foggy Bottom metro station to the Lincoln Memorial, but not overly so. It wasn’t until I got right up to the monument that I got a good view of the crowd. Regrettably, I arrived just as Sarah Palin was finishing her speech. I suppressed a tear and climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

From the top steps of the Lincoln Memorial
From the top steps of the Lincoln Memorial

The view was brilliant! There was a lot of debate in the news about how many people attended the rally. I didn’t count them all, but there were a lot! Both sides of the reflecting pool were packed. Both lawns outside the line of trees next to the reflecting pool were packed as well. I left the Lincoln Memorial and circled around to the South. I hoped I could find a way back to the reflecting pool so I could see the stage. There was no way I was going to make it. It was standing room only from the tree line to the water.

The crowd in the tree line near the reflecting pool
The crowd in the tree line near the reflecting pool
More of the crowd in the tree line

I didn’t catch much of the speeches. Most of what I heard gave me the feeling I was at a religious revival. The crowd seemed to receive the messages well.

I continued to work my way back through the crowd to the Washington Monument. The crowd started thinning out by the time I reached the big lawn between the Washington Monument and 17th Street. By thinning out I mean I could actually walk up the slight hill without stepping on anyone.

The crowd on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument
The crowd on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument

I hiked up toward the Washington Monument and took this picture of the crowd.

Looking back toward the Lincoln Memorial
Looking back toward the Lincoln Memorial

By this time I was getting way too hot and decided I needed to relax with the greatest gift of Western civilization, so I walked over to the National Gallery of Art to partake of air conditioning. It was truly wonderful and made me proud to be an American.

Sadly, without my wife by my side I did not appreciate the fine art in the gallery. Fine art is always better with Erin around. I did like this painting. Evidently some people think it is pretty good.

The Alba Madonna
The Alba Madonna

I must admit going through the art museum by myself did have its advantages. The biggest being I could leave whenever I wanted. So I exited the building onto Constitution Ave. I looked up 6th Street and saw a large crowd of people gathering in the distance.

Rev. Sharpton's March
Rev. Sharpton

I’ve been buried in my new job and I haven’t watched the news for a long time so I had to ask a security guard what was going on. He told me the Reverend Al Sharpton was holding another rally at a local high school. I guess they were not too happy with Mr. Beck holding his rally on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech.

See if you can pick out Rev. Sharpton in this photo.

The Rev. Sharpton is in there somewhere
The Rev. Sharpton is in there somewhere

The crowd was a lot more lively than Beck’s crowd. They were shouting slogans and singing songs. It was moving to hear, “We Shall Overcome.” I decided to fall in with the marchers and see where they were going since this was as close to a civil rights march of the 1960s as I’m ever going to get.

It was a great experience and wonderful to see my fellow countrymen peacefully gather together and express their opinions. In that moment I was not moved by any individual message. I was moved my nation allows such gatherings and grateful that each rally was peaceful and honorably executed.

2 thoughts on “Freedom of Assembly

  1. Hey Jason,

    Love this post! Great pictures, and you’ve made a great point that we shouldn’t forget that we are privileged to live in a nation where these demonstrations, as different as the ideals behind them may be, are both legal and peaceful.

    I think that a lot of the individual negativity and hostility we’ve seen lately would disappear if more people had that perspective, realizing that despite our differences, we have a lot in common, especially the history that got us to where we are and the freedoms we have, and often take for granted.

    Thanks for posting this, and congratulations on your career move, and first assignment! I think it’s awesome that you’re making your dream happen. Good luck with everything!

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