Two hundred buses organized by Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington were scheduled to take 10,000 people from New York to Washington, DC for the Rally for Sanity (or To Keep Fear Alive), organized by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
By 5:30 Saturday morning, it was organized chaos as throngs streamed into the meeting point at CitiField in Queens where the buses were set to depart at 6 a.m. Some had abandoned taxis stuck in traffic by the exit ramp to walk the final few blocks to the stadium. As they arrived, people with white Huffington Post signs directed them to a massive line leading them to registration tents where they would show their email tickets and receive wristbands allowing them to board the buses -- and the return buses from Washington.
Maybe it was the early hour, or the darkness (the moon was still shining), but people seemed very sedate as they waited in line. A few held signs such as "there's nothing to fear except fear itself - and bears," a reference to Stephen Colbert's frequent ranking of bears as his number one threat. Some wore fuzzy bear hats in tribute to Colbert (get it? pronounced "Col-BEAR").
Alexandra Armstrong wore a suit jacket and tie, and a button saying "Stephen Colbert for President." She said she came from Florida to ride a bus from New York with friends. Though a registered Democrat, she said the rally spoke for people like herself who don't feel like they have a political party. "I think most of America is in the middle not on opposite sides," she said, getting serious. "I just believe in something that's going to bring people together."
What that "something" is, though, was up for debate. Many people said they were going for fun more than politics. "I don't think of this as a political rally I'm going purely for entertainment," said 23-year-old Justine Giannino of Manhattan. She said she's an Independent and had gone to a political rally last year in Washington to support gay marriage. "I think this about as active as I'll get," said her friend, 26 year-old Xizi Qiu of Flushing, who sat next to her on their bus. "My interest is there," she added, saying it's time for "massive changes."
Fifty-seven-year-old Ethan Ries of Brooklyn called the rally "politainment" and a counterpoint to the rally in DC by Fox News' Glenn Beck. Ries and his wife, Andrea Brown, said they're glad Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are organizing their big audiences for whatever the rally is about. "It's a good time to focus on sanity," said Brown, before settling in for a nap.
Thirty-three-year-old Rhys Cazenove of London was more serious about his mission. He said he's lived in the States for four years with a green card, but can't vote.
"Going to the rally is my way of being political without casting a vote," he said.
Political about what?
"Coming from the UK, if someone says something outlandish in politics, the media shuts them down and says 'you're talking nonsense.' In the States that doesn't seem to happen as much. If this is a way for moderates to get energized, that's a great idea," he said.