Well, I'm back. First off, congratulations to the Ottawa organizers on a very fine event, these people knew what they were about.
It was a beautiful day in the Capital, though a tad, uh, crisp. I arrived at about 1:30 to find a decent sized crowd. True to expectations the protestors were a diverse group. This wasn't a gaggle of NDP students from Carleton. I'd suggest that the majority of demonstrators were over 25. The labour unions made up the heart of the gathering with the quieter public servant-types milling around the edges, as is usual at Ottawa protests. As Kady O says over at her place (full live-blog of the event) it was certainly grassroots, with a lot of homemade singage.
The speakers were quite good. The protest was on message, for the most part (climate change was very much a favourite theme) without any awkward messages from those on the podium. Speeches that I heard included a public servant, a Nortel employee, a former member of the armed forces, and a Green Peace bigwig.
Best of all was the entertainment. When I arrived the crowd was being serenaded by the Raging Grannies, who had written a handful of funny songs for the event. The highlight, by far, was an appearance by Arrogant Worms member Trevor Strong (I think, apologies if that isn't right). He began with an observation that anything that got a few thousand Canadians off the fence must be pretty serious. He sang a hilarious song called The Proroger (to the tune of The Wild Rover) that had the crowd in stitches. He followed it up with the Beaver song, also worth a listen if you've never heard of the Worms. A couple other musicians participated, and I enjoyed all of them. To whoever was working the talent, job well done!
I met Mr. Ignatieff as he was walking up at around 3:00 I think. Layton started things off. He did well. I never know how I'm going to feel about Jack, sometimes he really rubs me the wrong way, but he was good today. The Bloc member said a few words en francais. Ignatieff... well, honestly I'm not sure how he did. As soon as he took the podium some yutz standing directly behind me started screaming things at him. He looked like a Dipper but he yelled like a Conbot (THIEF!!! was his favourite). A bearded fella came up and gave buddy some rather choice words which frightened him in to silence... for a second, then he started screaming again. More, louder, choice words and then a lady came up and also asked him to stop. She stuck around and spoke to him for awhile to keep him shut up. Eventually he got away from her and went and stood in the thick of it where he started to yell again. People started pelting him with snow balls. All this to say I only got the last sentence of Iggy's speech, I was more concerned with ending up in the middle of a brawl and having my ugly mug on The National fighting with a hippy.
After the politicos spoke the crowd dispersed for the most part. Elizabeth May had not yet spoken but not many waited around to hear her lovely voice. All-in-all a good event. It's nice to see people get involved, especially in a notoriously boring and conservative place like Bytown. So, now we wait and see what the national media make of it and what it does to those polls.
Final crowd estimates I've seen range from 3,000 to 4,000.