I went down to the demonstration, as Mick Jagger would say, for just long enough to take a few pictures before walking briskly back to the office (I’m really trying to work in a little exercise each day).
What I saw was a respectable-sized, but smaller-than-usual crowd.
Of course, it might be a bit unfair to compare this to previous such events that had a special “draw.” There was the first of these events, in 2000, at which a throng estimated at 60,000 — you couldn’t move on the grounds, and the crowd covered Gervais and spilled northward up Main Street — demanded that the Confederate flag come off the dome. (Which it did later that year, and now all subsequent King Day events have occurred under the one flapping on the grounds.)
But this time, the event was up against Barack Obama’s second inauguration, and a lot of people who go to demonstrations went to that instead. Or watched it at home, instead of on the screen provided on the State House steps.
I didn’t hear much — as I said, I was just there long enough to take a few pictures. And as usual, that was a challenge, with the crowd in sunlight and the speakers in shadow. One of these days, somebody needs to have one of those on the other side of the State House.
I did hear part of an address by the Rev. Brenda Kneece about gun violence (from what I heard, she was against it). Then, as I was leaving, Tom Turnipseed got up, and after a reference to his having been “hooked up to jumper cables” (it was him saying it this time, not Lee Atwater) in his youth, he started talking about MLK Jr. having psychiatric problems. I’m not sure where he was going with that, but the theme of this event was supposed to be mental health, so…
As I walked away, I ran into Sammy Fretwell of The State. Someone else was doing main coverage of the event, he said, explaining that he was there to look for “fringe elements.” And as it happened, someone had just been arrested… he broke off then to ask a passing cop about it, but didn’t get anything.
Anyway, I hope Sammy found some fringe elements, to make his efforts worthwhile.