Thursday, January 16, 2020

Another Home Run

The rules of the game. When you attend a Democratic debate, there is an area that is demarcated as the free speech zone. This is where protesters and advocates are allowed to stand. For the debates, Democrats and Republicans are typically given separate areas in which to congregate. There is usually a significant police presence.

The game started slow. The first photo taken of me happened even before I got out of my vehicle (WAPR - NPR).

For those old enough to remember, I felt like Jesse White, the American actor who appeared as Ol' Lonely -- the repairman in Maytag television commercials from 1967 to 1988. I stood (and paced) in the free speech zone from 12:30 to 3:45 PM all by myself (!), surrounded by a sea of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar signs planted in the ground. I was able to speak with and be photographed by representatives from only three media during that time.

Drake University was not in session for the winter term yet so while I spoke with a few people who walked by, there was little foot traffic. It was demoralizing and it was cold. But I was armed with six layers of long underwear and I stood my ground. I'm glad I did.

Just before 4 PM all Hell broke loose. Reporters and photographers appeared. A man with a large, 15 ft.tall blow-up chicken of Trump started to assemble his 3-D caricature, and a huge contingent of Amy Klobuchar supporters appeared. From that point on I was photographed and interviewed by a barrage of media representatives. As a result, I appeared on Channel 8, the local CBS station, and numerous NPR radio stations like Illinois -NPR.

Photos appeared in more newspapers and online sites across the county than one could find or count like the Akron Beacon Journal.

About 4:30 PM, two men appeared on a tractor specially tricked out to promote Trump. At that point I was talking to a reporter who cautioned me not to go over to where they were. I playfully grabbed his arm and said, "Come on, let's go," and he followed me. Photographers on the scene instinctively knew a photo op was in the making. Interestingly, the tractor operator backed off. It appeared he wanted to avoid a confrontation. While we did not interact with each other much, at least a dozen photographers captured the scene with me singing a verse from a 2020: The Musical song and waving my sign around.

By 5 PM the sun had retired and it was getting colder. I was finally feeling the bite of the cold and realized it was time to close shop. I knew of four scheduled debate watch parties and had planned to attend at least one, but that was not meant to be. I spent the evening in my hotel room watching the Democratic debate and collecting media coverage online from my time in the free speech zone. Stories actually started to appear before the debate even got started. 

This time at bat I managed to hit the ball once again out of the stadium. :)

Photos used in this post were taken by Victor J. Blue (CNN), Kerem Yucel (AFP via Getty), Ambrose Graham (Quad City Times), Scott Olsen (Getty), Brian Houlgrave (USA Today) and Chris Gothner (CBS). More information available under Press Coverage link on the right side of the blog.

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