Big Bird may have stolen the show during the first 2012 Presidential Debates when Governor Mitt Romney said he was going to cut subsidies to PBS. “I like PBS. I love Big Bird… but I am not going to keep spending money on things [we have] to borrow money from China to pay for,” Romney said. This was a rallying point for the Million Puppet March. Three days before the 2012 election on Saturday, November 3, over 1000 people gathered on the National Mall in protest. Some attendees dressed as muppets, and many with puppets, to support public media such as PBS and NPR.
Rally organizers Chris Mecham and Michael Bellavia had previously never met. They were connected through social media and were sparked into action following Mitt Romney’s comments about PBS and Big Bird during the first 2012 presidential debate. As a case of viral coincidence, both Chris and Michael registered the million puppet march web domain and fan pages independently of one another on the evening of the debate. As supporters of public media and fans of puppets, Chris and Michael’s mutual interest greased the wheels for the event that occurred on the Saturday before the 2012 election. Both organizers felt that Romney’s comments were an attack on publicly-funded media and a that a response at the footsteps of the Capitol was necessary.
Shouting “El-mo, we won’t go!” and parading past the U.S. Capitol were children and adults carrying their favorite puppets, marionettes, and stuffed playthings. Starting at 11am the march proceeded from Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill down to the reflecting pool of the Capitol Building. A 1pm rally continued for an hour and speakers discussed the value of publicly-funded educational media as well as non-biased reporting and support of independent media.
Turnout proved to be much smaller than the proposed 1 million attendees but what they lacked in volume attendees made up in heart, smiles, and passion for public media. A few singers and speakers took to the podium while many used the occasion for photo ops with their kids and onlookers. Some puppet-to-puppet interviews for blogs occurred and a chant of “No puppets, no peace” permeated the demonstration. Organizers Chris and Michael expressed their desire to keep the discussion going for support of public media. The march was fun, the environment respectful, and the opportunity to make a teaching moment out of a political sound clip was priceless.