From TIME’s Sophia Yan:
Ripples of protesters, thousands of them of all ages, lined Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol Saturday. Deafening chants could be heard, from “You lie, you lie!” echoing South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson’s outburst during President Obama’s Wednesday speech to plaintive cries of, “Enough, enough!”
If Dems thought Wilson uncivil, their ears would’ve been burning at this rally. Organized by the conservative groups ranging from the “Tea Party” set that first launched protests at President Obama’s rate of spending in April to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s Freedom Works, some protesters claimed as many as two million people showed up — in reality estimates put it more in the tens of thousands. Taxes, spending and especially health care were the topics du jour.
Passersby snapped photos; some held their cell phones up to capture the sounds. A crowd of youths with anti-Obama capes swirling about their shoulders queued at Starbucks for their morning coffees. U.S. flags and colorful signs like “Obamacare Makes Me Sick,” “Joe Wilson Was Right” and “I’m Not Your ATM” dotted the sea of anxious and rowdy faces. One defiant young woman waved a sign, “Hey Obamacare, Hands Off My Body.” Sporting a tri-cornered hat, a bell-ringer led a group of protestors in colonial costume calling for revolution.
When asked what brought them there, the 12 members of the Sargent family from Pittsburgh, PA intoned, “Socialized medicine!”
Reflecting Congressional approval ratings, which have sunk from a high of 36% in June to 29%, according to an average of polls by Real Clear Politics, several signs read: “Fire ALL of Congress, Let’s Start Over.” Pam from Columbus, OH, who refused to give her last name, was one of those simply mad at the system. “I’m frustrated in general [at] just the state of everything.” Party affiliation is not the priority, she said. The President and Congress “need to listen to the people and do what’s right.” Likewise, Timothy Stewart said he feels that “nobody is listening,” and called Congress “a mess.”
Several people accused the President of lying to them, including Lewis Taylor, 18, a first-year political science major at the University of Charleston in West Virginia. Taylor wore a t-shirt of his own creation, with “Impeach Obama” emblazoned across the back.
Most arrived by the busload late last night or early this morning. About 450 buses were organized by Freedom Works, according to Foundation spokesman Adam Brandon. Others came on their own: George Marcum, a grandfather from Dayton, OH said he drove through the night, arriving in the District at 11 a.m. to make sure President Obama knew he sided with Wilson (if Marcum has his way, he’d have Wilson and former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin on the 2012 Republican ticket). By the end of the day, protesters slowly began to drift away as hunger and thirst got the better of them but many assured TIME that this was not a retreat, merely a pause in their outcry.