Comedy Central on the Mall

David Burnett/Contact Press Images
A screen showing Stephen Colbert at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, Washington, D.C., October 30, 2010

On October 31, Peter Clothier, a seventy-four-year-old author and retired professor, posted an entry on his blog, called The Buddha Diaries, about the wonderful day he and his wife Ellie had spent at the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on October 30 at the Mall in Washington, D.C., between noon and 3 PM. “We stood there trapped for a good two hours, surrounded by people who, like us, had showed up. We saw nothing, heard nothing of what was happening on the stage. It was great!” Clothier writes. He and Ellie had risen at 5:30 AM to catch a 6:45 Amtrak train from New York, which should have gotten them to the rally in time to not see and not hear for the full three hours. But they were detained by a horrendous and dangerous crush of people in the Washington Metro.

“The Metro system was utterly unprepared for the invasion,” Clothier writes. The station was “a mob scene.” “People were waiting in lines ten deep to board” and train after train went by “so full that not one single person could squeeze aboard.” However, with the exception of one angry man, who was “quelled by fellow passengers,” everyone kept his frustration in check and no one behaved badly.

Joseph Ward, a student at the University of Illinois, had been on a bus all night when he entered the little hell in the Washington Metro. And yet—as he wrote in The Daily Illini, where he is an assistant news editor—“I could not muster up the courage to get pissed at my situation. How could anyone not be positive?” He went on to describe the crowd of “young, old, black, white, hippies, yuppies and ex-servicemen pushing their comrades in wheelchairs” who “understood why they were there.” When Ward finally boarded a train it was

packed beyond belief to the point where the conductor would come over the loud speaker and remind people not to panic, push or get on a car that was already at maximum capacity. I felt like telling the conductor that his points were moot, that this was the sanest population in the western world he was addressing and that we would not buy into his Colbertian fear mongering.

After he got off the train Ward revised his opinion of the conductor’s “points” (“Turns out, he may have been on to something”). “I feared for my life when the crowds uncontrollably pushed me to within six inches of the train as it began to speed away from the station.” At the rally, Ward, like the Clothiers—and almost everyone else there—couldn’t see or hear what was going on onstage. (There were a few, but hardly enough, TV monitors on the…

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