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Glenn Beck Receives Key to Mt Vernon; Residents say, “Change the Locks!”

Reported by Guest Blogger - September 28, 2009 -

Report and all photos by Hula

In Mount Vernon, Washington State, crowds of protestors chanted “change the locks” as an airplane overhead pulled a message repeating the mantra and the key to the city was given to controversial radio and TV shock jock Glenn Beck. Emotions were high as protestors chanted and cars honked before and during the event which had been organized – without City Council approval - by Mayor Bud Norris, ostensibly to raise money to restore the Lincoln Theater while honoring the fame of their notorious hometown boy. With video slideshow.

Beck headed up to the small farming community where he spent much of his youth after hosting an earlier event at Safeco Field, the massive baseball stadium in Seattle, where fans paid up to $500 each to hear him speak. The twitter feed reported that the police estimate for the crowd at Safeco was 5000. Glenn Beck reported the number as 7000.

This would give Beck 1/6th the turnout of an average soccer game in Seattle, and 1/9th the turnout of a baseball game on a given day. Which begs the question, why did he book a stadium with a capacity ranging from 47,116 to 54,097? Where were the people he expected? (Take a look at the “unexpectedly large crowdhere).

Some of his supporters were up in Mount Vernon along with the protestors. They were conspicuous among the others holding up their protest signs and chanting slogans.

Mount Vernon and Skagit Valley have had their share of protests; there is a long history of protestors at city hall during the Bush years and everyone who lives here (including this writer) will remember them. Protestors successfully stopped the building of two nuclear plants in the 70’s. Saturday’s protestors were well organized, with orange-vested volunteers helping to keep the peace.

The crowd in Mount Vernon was enthusiastic both in support of and in opposition to the controversial move by the Mayor, Bud Norris, whose decision was taken without the consent of the City Council. The Council last week voted “no confidence” for the Mayor’s solo decision to give the symbolic key to the city. Norris, a Republican, says he proclaimed Saturday "Glenn Beck Day" as a way to mark Beck's success as a nationally known broadcaster.

The news estimates for the Mt. Vernon protest range from 800 - 1000, and only one arrest was made, for a protester who allegedly blocked cars from passing. The crowds lined the street in front of McIntyre Hall. Supporters and those who opposed of the honoring of Beck in his former hometown were often side by side. As an attendee I was impressed with the lack of Obama = Hitler signs, and the majority of supporter signs were defending Beck and welcoming him to the city. One supporter when asked told me she felt she was given an unfair title of being a racist because she supports Beck.

I spent much of my time taking photos and talking with the organizers. The grandmother of one organizer, Sharon, told me she had given out hundreds of keys to the city for people to wear around their necks. She felt the Fire Marshal was much more deserving of the key then Beck who called President Obama a racist.

One of the leaders, Brian, put it this way: he does not object to Beck coming to Mount Vernon, but he objects to someone who clearly was politically divisive being given the key to the city.”It is just wrong that someone can be given the key to the city at a closed event where citizens are not allowed to attend, take pictures, or be heard”.

This sentiment was echoed from all the protestors I spoke with. They did not say hateful things but feared their city would now be boycotted for the Mayor’s unilateral decision.

I offered to take pictures of the event inside the hall for city Councilman Dale Ragan and he replied he would like them because he was going to be out of town, but when I approached a Mount Vernon policeman with his request, he told me he wasn’t interested in talking with me; if I didn’t have a ticket I wouldn’t be allowed in. I did get photos outside the event which you can view in the video slideshow below.

The protestors in Mount Vernon set the example of what protestors should be, making their point without verbally or otherwise attacking those holding the opposite view. There was smiling and shouting on both sides and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Reporter Hula is a long time resident of Mount Vernon and Skagit County.

Protest Glenn Beck Mount Vernon