I got notice a few days ago that Obama would be in Jacksonville for a rally and despite my reluctance of attending an outdoor event (outdoor events in Florida are the worst), I thought that this might be one of those once in a lifetime things that I just shouldn’t pass up. Plus, I credit Obama for getting me to care about politics at all. I voted in 2004, but I wouldn’t really say I paid much attention to the race. I voted for the democrat because I identified with the democrats and I didn’t like Bush. Period. Beyond that I didn’t really care. But with all the craziness of this year’s race, with Obama and Hillary and everything, I’ve actually tried to stay up to date with the goings on both sides (not just the one I plan to vote for) and to know where the candidates stand on all the issues so that I know I’m voting for the right person (IMHO). Anyway, it seemed only right that my first political rally should be for Obama. After guilting my boyfriend into going with me (he also hates outdoor events as well as anything with a crowd) and getting my shift covered at my part-time job, it was all set.
I had no idea how early we should be there, but I figured the earlier the better. It had rained the night before and was still overcast, but somehow it did not rain during the rally, despite looking like the sky was about to open up several times. This was a good thing because they weren’t allowing umbrellas (or much of anything else, I heard that people with kids in strollers got turned away!). We had parked and walked about halfway to the park when someone shouted this to us, so we had to walk back and leave everything in the car. When we found the line, I cursed myself for not arriving earlier (we were about 1.5 hours before the gate opened, which was 2 hours before the event was going to start). The line was already snaked around into two lines by then, but about 30 minutes after we got there it had snaked around into 4 distinct lines, so we actually got there at a pretty good time.
The line started moving fairly quickly after we’d been standing there for half and hour or so. It was a lot faster than I thought it was going to be judging from how many people were in front of us. Going through security was fast though, especially since I had dumped my purse in the car. People with bags had to go to a different line where they could be searched. I just had to get my camera and phone checked. I heard one of the security guys asking another women not to take pictures of the “security things” (after I had taken pics already), so the below picture might be illegal or something but it’s not like it’s showing anything you can’t see if you go to the airport.
Here’s the scene when we finally got to the park. It was maybe a quarter full at this point (about 2 hours before the event was supposed to start). You can see all the dark clouds over us. Obama stood in front of the big sign on the far right. He wasn’t actually facing the crowd, but the stage set up on the left side (where that flag is hanging) where all the cameras were set up.
So we packed in there as close a possible to the platform (it was a lot closer than I thought we would be with all the people that were in front of us in line) and commenced standing for the next 4 hours. That was hell. It was hot (duh) and the ground was wet from the rain the night before. I tried to persevere, but after about an hour or so of standing I give up and sat on the wet ground. I had brought a hoodie with me, so I sat on that, though it really didn’t help much. At one point they started passing around bottled water to the crowd which was much needed. All the while, a local band (I’m assuming?) played a bunch of motown hits with some Bob Marley thrown in for good measure to try to distract the crowd from their legs slowly losing all feeling.
At some point two planes started making circles around the park, with signs behind them saying “Florida is McCain and Palin country” and “Raising taxes is unpatriotic”. Boos all around from the crowd for that shit. When all is said and done, they are saying 20,000 people showed up for this rally (8,000 people were kept out of the grounds by the fire marshall, but I’m pretty sure they could still hear because I could hear people clapping and cheering from far away), while only about 4,000 showed up for the McCain rally a week before so I think he may need to rethink Florida being “McCain country”.
The event finally started at about 3 (at which point I stood up and kept standing for the rest of the time). I expected there to be a bunch of speakers beforehand, but it got kind of ridiculous after a while because someone would come up and talk and then they’d say “And now I have the pleasure of introducing Senator….” (and here’s where the crowd collectively holds it breath) “Bill Nelson” and the crowd would groan. There was at least three senators introduced. After a bunch of people spoke, there was some more waiting, the crowd growing more and more restless. Eventually, Obama’s bus showed up and every time someone in a suit exited the crowd would start cheering. About an hour after it started, there was one more speaker (she kept it short) and finally introduced him and the crowd totally went crazy. I was able to snap a few shots before my camera battery died, but I was pretty much just holding the camera up as far as I could hoping I was pointing in the right direction because he was impossible to see with everyone jumping up and down with their hands and cameras in the air.
The speech was great as usual. Obama mentioned the bombings in Pakistan and thanked all the previous speakers. Then he started out by quoting Abraham Lincoln: “If you don’t stop telling lies about me, I’m going to have to start telling the truth about you.” (that is probably paraphrased from my memory though) He went into McCain for trying to blame all the recent financial problems on him and for all of McCain’s lobbyist ties. It was funniest part of the speech, just for how incredulous he was at the shit McCain’s been saying. He had some good one liners that I can’t remember off the top of my head. Then he went into his usual talking points that I’ve heard in a bunch of his speeches (didn’t mean it was any less awesome), the crowd was cheering throughout, breaking out into “Yes We Can” and “OBAMA” chanting several times. I’m not sure how long the speech was, 30 or 45 minutes? It sped by, unfortunately, and then everyone was cheering and jumping up and down like crazy again as he hugged and shook hands with all the lucky people that got to stand on the platform with him.
Getting out of the park took forever and despite being cloudy all day, I got home and realized I had the worst sunburn all over my neck and arms, but it was all totally worth it. I would definitely do it all over again. (Though it was take some convincing to get Brandon to go to another ones of these: he stood the whole time in his really old shoes, which just about killed his feet.) The crowd was really diverse: young, old, white, black, and every other race. The guy Brandon was standing next to said he voted for JFK and had gone to a rally for him as well. How cool is that? It was just really inspiring to see all those people come together and to feel the excitement from everyone. I feel really lucky that I got to participate in that.