Duluth moms set pace at march
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It was bigger and more intense than the Duluth delegation or even the national organizers ever dreamed. The Million Mom March on Mother's Day in Washington, D.C., brought a crowd estimated at times to exceed 700,000. The actua...
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It was bigger and more intense than the Duluth delegation or even the national organizers ever dreamed.
The Million Mom March on Mother's Day in Washington, D.C., brought a crowd estimated at times to exceed 700,000.
The actual size of the gathering was hard to gauge from various vantage points, as people came and went, especially parents with toddlers and others seeking shade.
For some the day started early with a trip to the White House, where the Clintons hosted about 600 people as a kickoff.
The invitation only event included the Duluthians.
Confusion at the White House gates over who was on the list, and the Clintons late arrival, had some of the crowd clapping for action by 9 a.m.
"We haven't had breakfast," one impatient woman yelled.
The Minnesota delegation was not alone in coming off a long, hard night on the road. Many in the crowd shared stories about marathon bus rides, car caravans, airport delays and late trains.
But the complaints gave way to a swell of excitement and cheers as the Clintons finally moved to the stage.
"Good morning and happy Mother's Day!" shouted Hillary Clinton, wearing a striking peach-colored suit. "I especially want to thank all of the moms who are here, all of the dads and all of the kids.
"We are marching not as Democrats or Republicans or Independents, we are not marching as African Americans or Native Americans or Asian Americans or any kind of American that's hyphenated, we are marching as Americans, as moms who care about American kids.
"We've come here in the names of the children we love, the children we have lost and the children we want to save.
"... We know that gun violence is not a woman's issue," she said. "It is a family issue, a children's issue, it is an American issue.
"But I think it sometimes takes women to stand up and say, 'Enough is enough, enough is enough!'"
It was a phrase that would be frequently repeated during the day.
"Let's get down to what this is all about," said President Bill Clinton. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is about prevention."
"We don't have an excuse anymore," he said. "The other side wins this argument basically on power, money and fear, and using labels."
In closing, he said, "Don't be deterred by the size of the political mountain you have to climb."
At the same time Clinton was wrapping up his speech, a small colorful counter demonstration was forming in the shadow of the Washington Monument.
The president and first lady then began meeting the people one on one, including many of the local contingent.
The White House event had been telecast on giant screens on the National Mall to serve as the official start to the Million Mom March.
The counter protest, called the Second Amendment Sisters, opposed any new gun laws. But its crowd of about 1,000 seemed puny compared to the masses of people packing the mall.
Even early in the morning, the two stages, a giant screen TV system and an army of green-shirted volunteers indicated a massive turnout was expected.
There was a double row of portable toilets several blocks long, a contingent of mounted police and a traffic jam of charter buses bringing in more moms.
The Minnesota group had a prearranged meeting spot for anyone who wanted to represent the state.
Here, the Duluth group was joined by banner carrying units from other parts of the state and two large puppet figures.
The group swelled to several hundred and led by the Duluth moms, started a rapid march toward the main stage.
Up to then what had looked like a slowly building event was suddenly infused by the quick stepping Minnesotans chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho, we're moms from Minnesota."
Near the stage it caught the attention of the announcer, and a thunderous cheer erupted as the Minnesota marchers were flashed on the big screens.
The delegation merged into the crowd packed round the stage, and the mall began filling up as waves of moms and other supporters continued converging from all directions.
More men than expected turned out, and the crowd became a giant friendly mix of all races and age groups.
While some delegations picnicked in the shade, others would spontaneously break into song, dance, cheers, hugging or tears as the speakers and entertainers gave their messages.
Thousands carried signs, and the mall was soon too crowded to keep track of anyone.
Many continued to march around the perimeter, while others squeezed toward the stage for a glimpse of the many celebrities present.
The rally ended late afternoon, and though tired and sunburned, many delayed leaving as long as possible.
As the Duluth moms found their way to the bus, some were still chanting, several were crying, and an excited Bea Kitto of Proctor exclaimed, "I got to meet the president!"