Glenn Beck Restore Honor rally not political, says 9.12 Project Colorado chair Lu Busse

As we noted yesterday, 9.12 Project Colorado chair Lu Busse attended the Glenn Beck Restore Honor rally in Washington, D.C. Saturday, sharing her take in a People's Press Collective post.

But Busse offers up plenty of outtakes below, including her guess at the actual size of the crowd and her contention that the event wasn't political.

For Busse, traveling to the Nation's Capital for the Beck bash, held on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial, was tough from the standpoint of expenses and time, what with the fast-approaching November election already cutting into her family obligations. But she decided to make the sacrifice anyhow in part because "this was not supposed to be a political rally. It was going to be more spiritually based."

Many progressives may doubt that, but Busse, who hung out with another trio from Colorado, feels the event was about faith, not electioneering. Near the top of the program, "they had a long prayer, and we closed in prayer -- and throughout the rally, we heard ministers speak," she points out. "There were 12,000 clergy spread out among the crowd."

These spiritual leaders made their presence felt long before the program got underway.

"We got there about 5:30 in the morning, and as the sun came up, it was kind of quiet," she recalls. "Some people had been there all night and were kind of groggy. But one of the clergy got up and said, 'Since this is all about restoring honor, let's have a prayer' -- and it was amazing. This huge throng of people I was among just hushed and listened to this long prayer -- and he was really good at it. He had a loud, booming voice."

About fifteen minutes after the crowd responded to the prayer's conclusion with a resounding "Amen," group participation continued with a spontaneous version of "God Bless America." As Busse notes, "we started off, and more people joined in, and I don't know how far it rolled across the crowd, but it was pretty loud. We got through it twice."

Although Busse saw a few signs held by the scattering of protesters in the vicinity, she observed no placard-shaking among attendees. Instead, they waved flags and wore T-shirts with slogans like "One Nation Under God" and the one Busse donned: "I Am America."

For her, "it was my way of saying I'm part of America. We were there to unite around our American principles and values -- and most of us there do believe in God, and believe God has a place in our lives. We're not going to shove it down people's throats, but we feel like we ought to be able to share it with each other. Just because we're Christians doesn't mean we can't talk about these kinds of things. There's a place in the public square to at least discuss and state what your beliefs are, and that opens a dialogue. Like, 'Do you believe in men or do you believe in God?' Because there's a difference, obviously."

Predictably, crowd-size estimates have varied widely, with CBS estimating around 87,000 people and Representative Michele Bachmann guessing that the throng had reached a million. Busse thinks the true number is somewhere in the middle, but easily north of 500,000 -- and she questions why mainstream media organizations didn't simply acknowledge it.

"That's always the way it is with our stuff," she says. "They don't want to admit there are as many of us as there are. But our understanding from the Park Service was that the area around the reflecting pool holds 250,000 people, and that area was full. And in addition, there was a field off to stage left that holds 300,000, I recall the Park Service saying, and it was full, too. And that doesn't count all the people behind the stage and the people under the trees."

Whatever the case, the Beck rally drew infinitely better than did an alternative rally staged by Reverend Al Sharpton. "I heard about 3,000 people came to that," she says, speculating that the media downgraded the Restore Honor crowd in an attempt to make the disparity seem less gaping.

Speakers at the Sharpton happening were unhappy that Restore Honor took place on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, staged at the same location. But Busse thought MLK was treated with all due respect from commentators that included his niece, Alveda King.

"She got one of the loudest ovations," Busse stresses. "She talked about 'Uncle Martin,' as she called him. And an African-American minister from Houston who Glenn Beck gave the faith award talked a lot about faith, and how faith will help us heal and become a more united America. He was one of the best speakers, and he got a really good reception. If you listened or were in attendance, you would not have thought any of us felt badly or disliked Martin Luther King in any way. He's one of America's heroes, and we need more like him."

Other highlights from Busse's perspective? She mentions a boy scout who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the conclusion of Beck's speech, when "he asked us to join with him to mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to our country. And during 'Amazing Grace' at the end, people were raising their hands to the heavens to try to have that connection. It was spontaneous, and very moving."

So, too, was the sense of camaraderie Busse felt.

"The people you'd meet were friendly, normal, everyday people. You couldn't find a right-wing nut job in the bunch! They may have been there, but they didn't cause any trouble, and they let the rest of us be what we were. And -- this was cute -- as we were leaving, we walked past some park staff speaking to each other, and they said, 'Look at this. They picked everything up.' And we did. We put trash in the trash cans, and if they were overfilled, we put it right next to the trash can, so it wouldn't be a lot of trouble, and the park staff noticed. They said, 'I guess we're not going to spend a lot of time cleaning up...'"

Back in Colorado, Busse feels energized by the rally -- and she's not the only one. "I know of at least a hundred people from across Colorado who went, from Durango and Bayfield and Grand Junction to Loveland and Vail and Avon and Castle Rock and Colorado Springs. I'm pretty sure every congressional district was represented."

While she insists that the event was about faith and honor, she acknowledges that it's already impacted the political aspect of her life.

"On those days when I think, 'Can I make one more phone call or write one more e-mail,' I'm like, 'Yes, I can. If I'm willing to give up everything I have to make sure my children and grandchildren live in an America as great as the one I grew up in, I can certainly keep going.'"

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts