Wild in Worcester
From the Scott Brown after-rally at the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza, Worcester, January 17, 2010, ~5 pm.
A rally for Scott Brown for Senator of Massachusetts took place today at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. Posted here is a first hand account of the rally accompanied by a few original photographs.
Mechanics Hall is a fairly famous venue renowned for its excellent acoustics on Main Street in Worcester, MA. I cannot attest to the acoustics because, as you'll see below, it was impossible for a lot of us to ever make it inside. I arrived at 2:15 pm for the event which was scheduled to begin at 3:00 pm.
The now-familiar Brown signs were in evidence from the corner, right off interstate 290, where you turn downtown. I was coming west from Holliston. Finding the event proved to be no problem since the traffic flow with bumper stickers and signs, many homemade, in the windows was easy to follow. I parked about a ten minute walk away and followed the crowd.
Upon arrival the scene looked like this (left). I estimate that several hundred supporters were lining both sides of Main Street. Cars were crawling through slowly (there's a traffic light right in front of the Hall) and horn-honking was rife. The noise of the crowd kind of rose and fell with waves of car horns and various chants from bullhorns and an occasional burst into "God Bless America."
A saunter through the crowd gave the impression of an extraordinarily polite mob who were sick and tired of it all and weren't going to take it anymore and, oh excuse me did I bump you with my sign ? There seemed to be a lot of political neophytes here. An old guy I walked in with spontaneously noted that he had never participated in any kind of political rally before. My impression was that he was not alone. There was, from this group of inexperienced politicos, a lot of electricity being generated.
The crowd itself was fairly hard to characterize. There was neither an excess of young nor of old. There were a fair number of families with children. There was also a clear representation of tea party participants and organizers with battle-tested protest paraphenalia. But far and away the Scott Brown acolyte profile is, if this rally is any guide, pretty ordinary folks.
So that the record is clear, there were a handful of Coakley supporters who staked out a corner across and slightly down the street from Mechanics Hall. I engaged a couple of them in conversation and there was mutual suspicion as to whom was from Massachusetts and who was from out-of-state. I actually counted them and there were, at peak, about thirty. They were mostly pretty quiet, I'd say grim, and the Brown supporters seemed to give them a wide berth. I was one of only a few who sashayed over to inspect the outsiders.
Another group of four interlopers who represented themselves as billionaire's for Brown (see below) did mingle with the crowd and chant billionaire-esque slogans. One of them claimed to me, reliably, I think, that he was from Worcester (I had guessed Cambridge). At one point a few of the Brown supporters tried to cover their signs with Brown placards in a move that looked like the beginnings of something confrontational. This lasted about ten seconds before cries all around of "leave them alone, they're Americans, too," (or the like) erupted. I guess they were having fun. They would no doubt have had more fun, with spot interviews on MSNBC, if the crowd had beaten them to a pulp. For a while I thought one of the women (the blonde, second from left) was actually a guy in drag. But closer inspection revealed that she was indeed a she. I guess that's not very complimentary.
A little before 3:00 pm the Scott Brown campaign bus pulled in. And a little after that it was announced that there was no room in Mechanics Hall for anyone else. This was a little bit of a surprise to me because I had not tried to go inside, thinking that we few (we happy few) hundred on the street were all there were. But no, Mechanics Hall holds a tad under 2000 and it was at capacity. I guess that while I wandered around the street there must have been a steady stream into the hall. Can't say how I missed it. The only other possibility is that it was already filled when I arrived. When the announcement, by some kind of bullhorn or PA from the bus, came that Mechanics Hall was filled and none of the rest of us would be able to get inside, the crowd exploded in wild cheers. At that point the Coakley people unaccountably, en masse (see photo above), slung their signs over their shoulders and trudged away.
So the overflow was directed to the Crowne Plaza Hotel ballroom up the street. It was quite a merry parade. We even had an equestrian escort - perhaps a tea party veteran? Horses were not, alas, allowed into the Crowne Plaza ballroom...so he had to wait in the bar.
To cut the travelogue short, the Crowne Plaza ballroom was packed with I estimate another thousand to fifteen hundred standing supporters. While we waited for the event to begin, people took turns taking the microphone and offering vignettes of their reasons for participating and their origins. People from as far as Pennsylvania ("we need to unseat Arlen Specter next") were there, doctors with concerns about the health care bill were numerous. There was even a single nut from the physics department at Harvard (me). We managed to pass the time swimmingly.
The main event commenced (for us on big screen as seen, initially at least, from rather a distance) with brief comments from a couple local organizers including a comedian whose name, I apologize, I don't remember. Some of the New England Patriots linemen were there (again, I don't recall names). The Brown daughters came on and Doug Flutie was next and he was looking and sounding great. John Ratzenberger, as you probably know by now, was there and he got a rousing response. They ALL got a rousing response. Ratzenberger was very poised in front of the audience and offered an anecdote about being a carpenter at Woodstock during the famed concert. He described how that concert was in the process of becoming a man-caused disaster until the National Gaurd arrived in helicopters to rescue the rabble who were, wet, un-prepared, stoned and hungry (though perhaps that's redundant). The National Guard distributed blankets and munchies. Ratzenberger suggested, a propos of Hillary Clinton's suggestion that a statue be erected at Woodstock, that it be a statue of a National Guardsman feeding a crying hippie. Curt Schilling, who noted for the record that he was not a Yankee fan, came on and did the actual introduction of Scott.
Scott Brown is a remarkable political candidate. He gives a talk like he's addressing his daughter's softball team, which he's coached, and all of the parents at the end of a successful season. He is as relaxed, as lacking in artiface and as suddenly filled with heart as you can imagine. His speech was no doubt written in advance. His remarks at the overflow room (about more, below) were clearly extemporaneous. But nowhere was there a note falsity.
I'm always suspicious of complaints about negative campaigning by politicians. But Scott Brown led the crowd in a chant of "Shame on Martha" with a sincerity that was genuine.
So he finished a fabulous, warm speech, during which he promised to come down the street to the Crowne Plaza. The last pictures are of his appearance there. He was preceeded in by his daughters. The crowd went wild. I got a couple of photos of him from fairly close-up. He actually started his talk by hemming and hawing and saying he just didn't know what to say...like he was the star at a surprise birthday party. Someone had instructed the hotel facilities guy to turn off the PA system for reasons that are unclear. So the testifying disciples (who resumed their testamonies after the Brown speech at Mechanics Hall) procured a bullhorn to give their testimonies. The room is really big, so the bullhorn was necessary.
So Brown made his remarks on bullhorn. Where have we seen this before? "We can't hear you!" "Well, someone, like the liberal intelligensia, will hear all of us soon!"