The First of Several Barack Obama Items: The Outsiders' Perspective

Brian Harkin
Barack Obama, speaking today at Reunion Arena
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Anyone who questions Barack Obama’s mounting momentum should have been at Reunion Arena this afternoon. Thousands of people waited in line for hours, only to be turned away. And when the fire marshals cut off the line and denied them entrance into Reunion, rumors spread through the crowd: “He’s coming outside!” they told each other in awed whispers. “They say he’s coming out here afterward because he knows so many people didn’t get in!”

A campaign staffer dashed their hopes, citing security concerns. “Don’t you want him to stay safe?” he shouted at the disappointed crowd. People nodded their heads. Many complained that the city should have held the rally at the American Airlines Center.

Ebony Jones, a seventh-grade science teacher from Universal Academy in Irving, helped bring nearly 100 students to the rally. After waiting in line for nearly three hours, the doors were closed. “They’re disappointed, on top of being really tired,” she told Unfair Park. “I’m a young teacher, and I’m telling my kids about the changes in our world -- they don’t take it in unless it’s hands-on. The majority of our school is African American and Hispanic, so to see people like them doing something…”

Twenty-one-year-old Katherine Pitts, also unable to enter the arena, said the number of young people in the crowd indicated a shift in her generation’s political participation. “I’m proud we showed that us youth care about something other than rap and baggy pants,” she said. “We do care about what’s important to this country.”

Nearby, a group of Kenyan men stood grumbling about how they missed their chance. “We were here for three hours,” said James Ondara, who, as a fellow Kenyan, calls Obama a “cousin.” “I felt so bad -- I just wanted to see him.” Ondara, a 31-year-old computer technician, said he’s been out of work for three months and is confident that Obama would create more jobs by providing incentives for companies to hire within the United States.He and Caleb Moitui, a 43-year-old teacher, arrived from Arlington at 10:30 but were turned away a little before 1 p.m.

Moitui pointed out the diversity of the crowd milling around outside while Obama spoke inside. Indeed, there were African Americans, Latinos and whites of all ages. “He’s touching people,” Moitui said. “You can tell the people out here are from all walks of life.” The observation is in line with recent exit polls suggesting that Obama has cut into groups that until now, Hillary Clinton has claimed as her own – namely, white males and working-class voters.

Shirley Pleasant, a middle-aged woman from Hamilton Place, said she walked a mile to the arena and was refused entry after waiting in line for several hours. She was disappointed, but said she was glad the security staff stopped the arena from overcrowding and refused to allow Obama speak outside. “I’m thankful to the City of Dallas and the police for protecting his safety,” she said. “We have a reputation around here, and we want him safe.”

Georgia Crain agreed, observing that even though she didn’t get in, the flood of fans could only bode well for Obama’s Texas campaign. “I’m happy I was able to be here and see people support Barack,” she said. “This is history-making -- I just felt history being made here today.” --Megan Feldman

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