The sideshow on the Northwest Washington street was complete with fake ostriches,a band,dancers and an audience in cars driving by,honking their horns in excitement.
The scene was outside Howard University Thursday as people lined the street to cheer for their candidates at the All-American Presidential Forums.
The 2008 Democratic candidates made their way to the historically black university by another route for the nationally televised discussion of issues affecting minorities in America.
The program didn't begin until 9 p.m.,but supporters and activists showed up outside the Howard campus as early as 5 p.m.
As media and staff drove through a police barricade,enthusiasts passed out fliers and waved cardboard signs of support.
Commuters looked on,sometimes in confusion,as different clusters of supporters chanted,sang and danced for their heroes.
Obama. Dodd. Biden. Clinton. Edwards. Fans pumped posters in the air,desperately trying to get more attention than the group standing next to them cheering for the other guy – or girl,in Clinton's case.
Ean Garrett,a 21-year-old Howard University legal communication major from Omaha,Neb.,led one of the groups. Garrett is Washington director of Students for Barack Obama,a Facebook-driven organization of students supporting the Illinois senator.
“Obama caters to young people,” Garrett said in an interview Wednesday. “Other candidates try to separate themselves from younger people,and they end up taking our votes for granted.”
Garrett compared the new spark in student activism to the Vietnam War and civil rights eras.
“There are just so many civil issues on the table that haven't been solved,” he said. “There's the rising cost of tuition,health care and the war in Iraq.”
Garrett said Obama represents a “broad range of ideals,beliefs and ethics,” which makes him the best candidate for 2008.
Others begged to differ.
Helena Morris,18,is a senior at Westminster School in Simsbury,Conn.,and she said knows who she wants her first vote to go to in 2008. She's a volunteer for the National Organization for Women,which has endorsed Clinton.
“Hilary! Hilary!” Morris chanted on Thursday,waving her sign high above her head.
“It's time for a woman to be in charge,” she said. “She supports all the issues I think are important.”
However,Morris was not the youngest supporter cheering on Georgia Avenue. Norah Gentile,16,traveled from East Hartford,Conn. to cheer on her home state senator,Chris Dodd.
The New Catholic High School senior will turn 18 in September 2008,just in time to cast her first vote for Dodd.
“I know that he's really been involved for a very long time,so he's experienced,” she said. “He's done a lot in Connecticut and here as well.”
Supporters of John Edwards were accompanied by members of Washington's Dunbar High School band. Edwards devotees chanted in time with the rhythm of the drums,while more outgoing supporters danced with their signs in the street.
Pullello said Edwards' focus on poverty made it clear that he cared about “the people.”
“He's genuine,” she said.
A quieter group of supporters stood next to the rowdy Clinton group. They sometimes held their signs in the air,shouting Joe Biden's name. By 7:30 p.m.,they stood behind a parked car,talking and laughing.
“I'm an intern for Senator Biden,” Heather Thompson,20,said. Thompson said the Biden group had been cheering on the street since 5 p.m.
“Biden stands for women's rights,” she said. “He's going to bring our troops home,and he's just the best person for the job.”
Weaving through the supporters were activists wearing signs and placards broadcasting their organization or cause. One group waved handmade posters reading,”What will you do to end extreme poverty and AIDS?”
The aforementioned ostriches were really just young women wearing ostrich suits. They represented Students for Saving Social Security,an organization in 18 states.
“We bring our ostriches to any campaign event that we can find because we are looking for a presidential candidate to get their head out of the sand and fix social security,” said Megan Ritter,21,a student at Seton Hill University in Greensburg,Pa.
At 8 p.m.,the rain hit.
The unfaithful campaigners hit the concrete running,holding their signs in the air,now to keep from getting wet.
But the die-hard supporters stood their ground and cheered even harder.
As the crowd scattered and water splashed onto the sidewalk from passing cars,these political fanatics jumped even harder,cheered even harder and vowed not to leave until their message was clear.
To see more photos from the presidential forum,visit this photo gallery.