Obama rally at Arch draws 100K

WU College Dems, Students for Barack Obama in attendance

| Contributing Reporter

The area around Liberty Memorial and the Gateway Arch was crowded with 100,000 people on Saturday afternoon, all of whom had a single intent: to see Barack Obama.

The Democratic presidential nominee addressed a culturally-diverse crowd, which stretched back to the St. Louis streets in the largest U.S. crowd at an Obama rally to date, on a number of topics related to the economy, including taxes, health care reform, job creation and standing up for the working class.

This message was echoed by Kenan Morrison, a sixth grade teacher at a St. Louis charter school who introduced the Democratic presidential nominee, telling the crowd that he “knows Barack Obama will give [students] the education they deserve.”

Thousands of people wound around the Gateway Arch early in the morning and were accosted by vendors selling merchandise for Obama, campaign volunteers checking people in and Secret Service agents.

People of all backgrounds were in attendance in large numbers, according to junior Becky Hufstader, vice president of the Washington University College Democrats.

“It was just amazing to see the support across gender, race [and] age. The people around us were just so diverse and everyone was excited about the same thing. It was just really great to see,” Hufstader said.

Some came with families to see the Illinois senator.

“I [support Obama] because McCain wants to keep city people the same,” Trenton Patton, a nine-year-old sporting an Obama headband and standing with his family, said.

Others, like Marcia Evers Levy, came with friends.

“I wanted to be part of what was going on and show my support. My friend said he was a fantastic speaker so I wanted to [have the] experience,” Levy, a senior citizen who brought blankets to sit on, said.

A few attendees had waited all day to see Obama, like Karla Purlall, who arrived at 7 a.m.

“[Obama’s] visionary and he can take this country in the right direction. [He’s] going to bring an end to this political unrest,” Purlall said.

Despite the excitement, some people were less than happy with the campaign’s no-signs policy, but they managed to show their support with Obama attire and pins.

“[The policy] probably made [the rally] a little more subdued,” Mary Veal, a woman who had made a sign, said.

The crowd erupted into applause when Obama took the stage but was relatively quiet while he was speaking.

“People were listening very closely to what he had to say,” Tootie Williams, a former employee of the Office of Student Activities. “[They] were evaluating his positions and the things he said. There was a lot of belief in him today.”

For many in the crowd, Obama’s delivery exhibited his oratory skills. The entire feel of the rally was “electric,” according to Tanya and Tab Smith.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who endorsed Obama during the primary season, also spoke at the rally.

In addition to the people in the crowd, various interest groups came out to capitalize on the high attendance. People passed out “Save the Metro” pins to promote Proposition M, which calls for a half-percent sales tax increase in St. Louis County to help support and expand MetroLink.

Linda Garcy, a member of Missouri for Clean Energy, was also passing out information on Proposition C, which would require utility companies to increase their use of renewable energy sources until 15 percent of Missouri’s energy consumption comes from renewable energy sources.

Even with the crowd’s diversity, attendees felt united.

“[When Obama spoke], for the first time I realized I was a part of Missouri,” freshman Limor Zisbrod said. “It made me realize I’m going to be a part of here for the next four years.”

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