From msnbc.com's Carrie Dann:
Washington DC is buzzing this morning, especially around the Lincoln Memorial, site of Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally. Speakers at the event include Sarah Palin and St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.
The rally has attracted tens of thousands (or many more according to one estimate), including many tea party-type supporters, a group we profiled here yesterday, What message are attendees trying to send and what are they expecting to hear and achieve with today's rally? Carrie Dann is on the Mall to find out. That and more from the Mall in a running update below:
"The cocoon": Joe, who declined to give his last name, is a groundskeeper from Lancaster, Pa. He says attendees are here to send a message about what he calls the "the cocoon" of D.C., where lawmakers have "no idea what's really going on out there." He says his wife has been looking for work for 18 months.
He stands by Beck's message that today isn't about politics.
"It's not about Sarah Palin," he says, "It's about unity in this country."
Big goverment: Ken and Arlene Fogg came to D.C. From Sanbonville, N.H. Today's a familiar feeling - they were here for the 9/12 march last year. (Today's rally might be a little smaller, Arlene cautioned.)
Military veteran Ken Fogg says he's here mainly to protest government spending by "this ridiculous administration." The president, he said, is "a communist."
Ken says he voted Republican in 2008 but is no fan of McCain, who failed to question Obama hard enough on issues like his legal birth certificate. He was disappointed to see McCain win his senate primary last week.
Off the couch: John and Bobbi Janson from Allentown, Pa. say they've always voted, but that they're heeding the call of Beck and others to step up their civic efforts.
"We've been sitting on the couch too long," says Bobbi.
But they shy away from the word "political" and say that they don't donate to any political parties. They share the small-government values of the Tea Party but don't think of themselves as members.
"'Political'... That's like a used car salesman," Bobbi says.
The retirees say they don't feel represented by lawmakers, who break promises to their constituents. "Just don't run on something you don't intend to do," John says.
On Palin, Bobbi thinks sometimes her statements are a little too radical for many peoples' taste. "Some things are really far out there, but she's not off the mark all the time."
Carrie Dann tweets: Folks here very adamant that they don't vote only for Rs. Most say they're indies or have voted Dem at least once.
"We've got to turn back to God": Butch and Sylvia Wilson took a tour bus to D.C. with 50 other attendees from Harwood, Ga. this morning.
Sylvia watches Beck every day and says she's bought all of his books. 'He's an honest man," she says.
She calls Obama "a crook" - Butch jumps in to say that his administration is "trying to ruin the country."
"He's just a puppy," Sylvia adds about Obama, "there's all kinds of people pulling his strings. Unions, George Soros, all the people in the administration."
The retired couple say they "absolutely" think of themselves as Tea Party advocates and that their top concern is government debt.
But also of great concern is the state of faith in the country. "We've got to turn back to God and ask for forgiveness," Sylvia says. "And we support godly people in office."
Heat causing concern: There is frustration by medical personnel trying to evacuate dehydrated folks, of which there is a steady stream.
One mounted police officer was shushed by the crowd as he shouted for them to clear the way.
"We're not trying to be nice here people," he snapped, "We're trying to save somebody's life!"
McCain no hero among some: A construction contractor from Boston, Mass., didn't want to be named because his "name is already on a government list somewhere"
But he warned that we are "on the verge of a civil war" over immigration. People "won't stand for" citizenship and benefits for illegal immigrants, he says.
He said he is unhappy his home senator, Scott Brown, for "stabbing us in the back" by supporting the financial regulation bill passed last month and says it's a "tragedy" that McCain won his primary in Arizona last week.
NBC's Domenico Montanaro tweets from the Mall: There won't be official #s. Parks Svc/police don't do that anymore. But official at top of memorial said 300-325K. There are a LOT of people.
Sparks of tension: A counter-rally group called MLK "celebratethedream" is on scene with a banner that labels Beck "a nightmare."
Organizers from that group engaged in arguments about race and history with rally attendees. The two groups engaged in a shrill volley of insults, Carrie Dann reports, with labels such as "racists," and "communists" exchanged. The tensions have calmed for the moment with police officers at the scene.
Closing thoughts from Carrie Dann: Today's rally was indisputably huge. NBC's Domenico Montanaro noted one park service official's estimate of over 300,000 but please note that the park service no longer provides "official" estimates.
People came from as far as Washington State - although many that I spoke with were from up and down the Eastern seaboard.
Most were on relentlessly on message, deemphasizing the political overtones of the event and highlighting the religious and unifying themes instead.
And almost every person I spoke with wanted to highlight that they don't think of themselves as Republicans. They vote "their conscience" and pay little attention to the party apparatus.
(That's not to say that they don't hold the most conservative of views -- Obama's birth certificate, union conspiracies, even the threat of civil war were mentioned. But those issues came up only when prompted to weigh in on Democrats and the administration)
Disillusionment with government seems to be the common thread that unites them. Many people said they have been bitterly disappointed with their elected officials - Republicans and Democrats alike. "They're all breaking their promises," one woman told me. Another man from Massachussetts accused Scott Brown for "stabbing us in the back" once he got to Washington.
One political figure whose name was mentioned frequently: Sen. John McCain. Three supporters - unprompted - mentioned their disappointment with his primary victory, deriding the former GOP presidential nominee as "a liberal."
And to a man (or woman), each Beck supporter I spoke with planned to vote in November -- and was eager to push the attributes of the candidates they support.