Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" drew liberal activists, moderates, absurdists, college students and no shortage of people in outrageous Halloween costumes to the National Mall on Saturday, Oct. 30. About 215,000 people attended the rally, according to a crowd estimate commissioned by CBS News.
The mood was satirical, festive and civil, though some attendees in the tightly packed crowd were frustrated by a lack of mobility and an inability to see or hear the screens that broadcast the performers on stage. The purpose of the rally, according to Stewart on the Sept. 16 episode of "The Daily Show," was to take back the national conversation from "the people who believe that Obama is a secret Muslim planning a socialist takeover of America so he can force his radical black liberation Christianity down our throats."
The signs ranged from the overtly political -- "Shame on the Senate" -- to the purely absurd -- "Repeal the Sister Act of 1992" and "Christine O'Donnell Hates Mouse People." The most common signs and costumes mocked tea party activists.
Nonetheless, a tone of niceness prevailed, even to a comic degree. When one large sign blocked the views of some rally-goers, they chanted together: "Put down the yellow sign, please!"
At another point, when one man was having trouble climbing a tree, the crowd chanted, "Yes, you can!" until he finally made it.
Though police officers did interfere when a man dressed as a Mexican terrorist drank Coronas on top of a media van, they didn't arrest him and instead smiled with him for a photograph.
Climbing objects to get a better view was a common theme of the day: attendees scaled trees, traffic lights, a media van and an ambulance. Almost every port-a-potty was packed with people sitting on top; the adventurous attendees didn't seem concerned when some of the toilets partly collapsed from the weight.
Stewart closed the rally with a 13-minute speech that criticized the media for amplifying conflict.
"The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen," he said. "Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming-ants epidemic."
Contact photographer Ali Eaves at firstname.lastname@example.org