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Million Puppet March

Part 1 – Part 2

Part 1

Million Puppet March demonstrators in the streetThe Million Puppet March was a protest march held in Washington DC on November 3, 2012 – the Saturday before the presidential election.  The event was held in support of PBS and public broadcasting in general and its value to society.  The march stemmed from comments made by then-presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney about wanting to stop federal subsidies to PBS during the first presidential debate.

I went to this march to photograph and lend my support.  After all, Today’s Special, one of my favorite shows as a child, was produced by TVOntario, which is the Canadian equivalent of PBS.  Today’s Special also aired on public television in the United States (though I watched it on Nickelodeon, a commercial network).

This was my first cold-weather political demonstration since I began to lose weight, having lost more than 100 pounds since March 2011.  The weight loss (and lack of insulation as a result), coupled with a jacket that was two or three sizes too large for the body that it was now on, made this one of the coldest demonstrations that I had ever been to.  Staying warm was a true challenge for me this time, and I didn’t do that well with it, unfortunately.

I had first heard about the Million Puppet March in the Express.  That was unusual in itself, since Express doesn’t usually discuss upcoming demonstrations.  But it was good to know, and sounded like something worth going to.  And in any case, it was a pretty fun demonstration.  The mood was happy and light, and people were really having a good time.


My Million Puppet March experience began with a drive down to the office.  My plan was to head into work after the demonstration, so I went down to the office, dropped stuff off, and then took off on the Metro to head to the meeting site for the demonstration.

One thing that struck me about the meeting place for this demonstraton was the unorthodoxness of the location.  It was at Lincoln Park, which is an urban park similar to Farragut or McPherson Squares in downtown, except that Lincoln Park is in the Capitol Hill neighborhood rather than downtown.  The site wasn’t very Metro-accessible, either.  For Blue and Orange Line users, the nearest Metro station was Eastern Market.  For Red Line users, it was Union Station.  Since I was coming from Dupont Circle, I took the Red Line to Union Station.  Getting to Eastern Market would have required a transfer to the Blue or Orange Lines, a ride through the downtown core and out, and would still have involved a not-insignificant walk.  For all that trouble, I could just walk it from Union Station.  After all, I’m in good shape now.  The walking wouldn’t kill me.

The walk took me from Union Station to East Capitol Street via First Street NE.  From there, turned onto East Capitol Street, and walked east for about a mile to get to Lincoln Park.

But first, however, on the way over, I spotted two things that amused me.


This was a very creative bicycle parking job, no?  It was chained to, of all things, a "no parking" sign.  Security guards were about to remove this bicycle when I came by for the photo.  I managed to talk them into waiting the few seconds for me to take the photo of the amusing lock job before removing it.

This was a very creative bicycle parking job, no?  It was chained to, of all things, a “no parking” sign.  Security guards were about to remove this bicycle when I came by for the photo.  I managed to talk them into waiting the few seconds for me to take the photo of the amusing lock job before removing it.


I spotted this sign on East Capitol Street a few blocks west of the meeting site.  The short of it is that I hate these sorts of signs.  I find these kinds of messages highly obnoxious, whether they're like this, like the one I spotted outside Webster House in Dupont Circle, or like the one in Waynesboro.  Basically, you are advertising to the world that you have a problem with people's pets' doing their business on your property, and presumably that irresponsible pet owners don't do their job and clean up after their pets.  But this seems to be far more obnoxious than the occasional dog poop on the ground, no?

I spotted this sign on East Capitol Street a few blocks west of the meeting site.  The short of it is that I hate these sorts of signs.  I find these kinds of messages highly obnoxious, whether they’re like this, like the one I spotted outside Webster House in Dupont Circle, or like the one in Waynesboro.  Basically, you are advertising to the world that you have a problem with people’s pets’ doing their business on your property, and presumably that irresponsible pet owners don’t do their job and clean up after their pets.  But this seems to be far more obnoxious than the occasional dog poop on the ground, no?


On the way, I was struck by another oddity about this demonstration: the meeting place was deep within a residential area, and even more so, the march was planned to go through an area that was mostly residential.  This was an area full of two-lane streets and stop signs – not exactly a bustling population center where bystanders and other folks will see the demonstrators.  But that’s where people like me come into play.  I was there primarily to photograph, document, and distribute the demonstration to the world – so despite their crappy location, the message would still get out.

However, as odd as the site chosen to meet up was, the people there were great.  There were puppets of all kinds – hand puppets, large street puppets, marionettes, and even people dressed in costumes resembling puppet characters.  You name it, and it was probably there.  There were characters that I’m sure that everyone would remember, like the Muppets (both the Sesame Street and Muppet Show varieties), there were characters from other productions, and there were some characters that I had never seen before but were equally awesome.


Some of the puppets present were rod puppets, where the puppeteer controls the head with one hand, and controls the puppet's arms via a rod of some sort with their other hand.  To give a Today's Special example, Muffy is a rod puppet.  Not all of the puppets of this style that were present had rods on their arms, mind you, and some also held objects in their hands.

Some of the puppets present were rod puppets, where the puppeteer controls the head with one hand, and controls the puppet’s arms via a rod of some sort with their other hand.  To give a Today’s Special example, Muffy is a rod puppet.  Not all of the puppets of this style that were present had rods on their arms, mind you, and some also held objects in their hands.

Some of the puppets present were rod puppets, where the puppeteer controls the head with one hand, and controls the puppet's arms via a rod of some sort with their other hand.  To give a Today's Special example, Muffy is a rod puppet.  Not all of the puppets of this style that were present had rods on their arms, mind you, and some also held objects in their hands.  Some of the puppets present were rod puppets, where the puppeteer controls the head with one hand, and controls the puppet's arms via a rod of some sort with their other hand.  To give a Today's Special example, Muffy is a rod puppet.  Not all of the puppets of this style that were present had rods on their arms, mind you, and some also held objects in their hands.

Some of the puppets present were rod puppets, where the puppeteer controls the head with one hand, and controls the puppet's arms via a rod of some sort with their other hand.  To give a Today's Special example, Muffy is a rod puppet.  Not all of the puppets of this style that were present had rods on their arms, mind you, and some also held objects in their hands.  Some of the puppets present were rod puppets, where the puppeteer controls the head with one hand, and controls the puppet's arms via a rod of some sort with their other hand.  To give a Today's Special example, Muffy is a rod puppet.  Not all of the puppets of this style that were present had rods on their arms, mind you, and some also held objects in their hands.

Some of the puppets present were rod puppets, where the puppeteer controls the head with one hand, and controls the puppet's arms via a rod of some sort with their other hand.  To give a Today's Special example, Muffy is a rod puppet.  Not all of the puppets of this style that were present had rods on their arms, mind you, and some also held objects in their hands.  Some of the puppets present were rod puppets, where the puppeteer controls the head with one hand, and controls the puppet's arms via a rod of some sort with their other hand.  To give a Today's Special example, Muffy is a rod puppet.  Not all of the puppets of this style that were present had rods on their arms, mind you, and some also held objects in their hands.


There were also "live hand" puppets, where the head is operated similarly to those of rod puppets, but the puppet's hand is a glove, enabling the puppeteer to insert their hand in order to allow the puppet to manipulate objects.  Sam and Mrs. Pennypacker from Today's Special are live hand puppets.

There were also “live hand” puppets, where the head is operated similarly to those of rod puppets, but the puppet’s hand is a glove, enabling the puppeteer to insert their hand in order to allow the puppet to manipulate objects.  Sam and Mrs. Pennypacker from Today’s Special are live hand puppets.


There were also finger puppets.  There were also finger puppets.

There were also finger puppets.


There were also several street puppets around.  This one was based on William R. "Sawney" Webb.

There were also several street puppets around.  This one was based on William R. “Sawney” Webb.

There were also several street puppets around.  This one was based on William R. "Sawney" Webb.


Some people had hand puppets with them.

Some people had hand puppets with them.


And all sorts of other kinds of puppets.

And all sorts of other kinds of puppets.

And all sorts of other kinds of puppets.


Some people held other representations of puppet characters, such as this family, which carried stuffed animals based on Sesame Street's puppet characters.

Some people held other representations of puppet characters, such as this family, which carried stuffed animals based on Sesame Street’s puppet characters.


Some people wore costumes.  Some people wore costumes.

Some people wore costumes.

Some people wore costumes.  Some people wore costumes.


Then there were also plenty of protest signs and messages of that nature.  Considering that this event was held the weekend before the 2012 presidential election, many of the signs were campaign-related.

Then there were also plenty of protest signs and messages of that nature.  Considering that this event was held the weekend before the 2012 presidential election, many of the signs were campaign-related.

Then there were also plenty of protest signs and messages of that nature.  Considering that this event was held the weekend before the 2012 presidential election, many of the signs were campaign-related.  Then there were also plenty of protest signs and messages of that nature.  Considering that this event was held the weekend before the 2012 presidential election, many of the signs were campaign-related.



And soon enough, the march began.  The march was going from Lincoln Park to the Capitol Reflecting Pool, which is on the west side of the Capitol, though some distance away from the building itself.  To get there, leaving Lincoln Park, we marched west on East Capitol Street as far as First Street NE.  The original plan was to keep our march on the sidewalk, but there was one problem with that plan: too many people.  We ended up expanding to fill the westbound lane of East Capitol Street as well, and that worked better.

Marching down the street, some of the chants you would expect from a protest came out in a style more suitable for the theme.  For instance, the “Whose streets?  Our streets!” chant came out as “Whose street?  Sesame Street!”  Additionally, the “Mah Nà Mah Nà” song was sung, as was the Grouch Anthem.  I had a lot of fun singing the Grouch Anthem in particular.


The march steps off from Lincoln Park.

The march steps off from Lincoln Park.

The march steps off from Lincoln Park.


On the march, I saw plenty of puppets and costumes.  Some, like these, were in the style of the Muppets.  On the march, I saw plenty of puppets and costumes.  Some, like these, were in the style of the Muppets.

On the march, I saw plenty of puppets and costumes.  Some, like these, were in the style of the Muppets.

On the march, I saw plenty of puppets and costumes.  Some, like these, were in the style of the Muppets.


There were also sock puppets.  There were also sock puppets.

There were also sock puppets.


There were big street puppets.

There were big street puppets.


  

  

  

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Part 1 – Part 2

Part 1