By Ellin Youse
When students gathered around City Park Gazebo to hear artist will.i.am speak on the importance of early voting, they were not anticipating they would instead be traveling to will.i.am and President Barack Obama’s rally at The Ohio State University (OSU).
Will.i.am was expected to arrive at the gazebo at 1 p.m. on Oct. 9 and talk to students about registering to vote before the early voting deadline ended later that evening at 9 p.m.
After his speech about President Obama and the importance of early voting, will.i.am planned to travel with students to the polls to cast their votes.
Will.i.am’s stop at OWU was initially part of a two-day Ohio tour that was to end at OSU later Tuesday afternoon, but permit complications addressed by the Delaware Police Department (DPD) made it impossible for the seven-time Grammy winner to come to Delaware.
Michael Deininger-Bell is a recent graduate from University of North-Carolina Wilmington and the Campus Organizer for Ohio Wesleyan for Obama.
Deininger-Bell was the head organizer for will.i.am’s stop in Delaware, but it wasn’t long until he realized the rally was not going to go smoothly.
Shortly after he began setting up for the rally, Deininger-Bell said he realized the gazebo’s power had been shut off.
After searching for the problem for about 30 minutes, several DPD officers and two Public Safety officers arrived at the park to inform Deininger-Bell he was without a permit and could not legally hold the rally on Delaware City property.
Interim Chief Bruce Pijanowski of DPD said the event was “unpermitted and uninsured.”
“They had information about the permit process prior to today, but some rules were waived for them,” Pijanowski said.
“There was some miscommunication from their end about what they needed to do for the rally.”
Deininger-Bell said he apologized to Pijanowski for the over-looked regulations, saying he only had 24 hours to plan the event.
Pijanowski said he understood and apologized for the inconvenience, but the rally needed to be moved off public property.
Pijanowski said he asked Deininger-Bell to tell the crowd at the gazebo that the location change was not mandated by the police department.
Sophomore Madeline Leader, an OWU for Obama volunteer, said forcing the rally to move locations was an infringement of the group’s right to assembly.
“I called my father, a lawyer, to see if this was even legal,” Leader said.
“The event was at a park, on a public forum. They can’t do that.”
Deininger-Bell addressed the crowd amassed around the gazebo, informing them that the event’s location had been changed and would take place at the Delaware campaign headquarters for President Obama at 177 Sandusky Street.
Deininger-Bell along with other OWU for Obama student volunteers led the crowd to the new location.
After waiting around a half an hour for will.i.am to arrive, a charter bus entered the parking lot outside of the headquarters.
The crowd began growing in excitement, but will.i.am was not in fact on the bus.
Rumors circulated through the crowd that will.i.am was no longer coming, and that the crowd was to be transported to the rally at OSU.
Those wanting to attend the rally immediately flocked to the bus, while other members of the crowd decided to leave.
Once the bus had been filled with students, Deininger-Bell climbed on the bus to make an announcement.
After apologizing to the crowd for so much confusion and turbulence, Deininger-Bell told the crowd will.i.am was no longer coming to Delaware. He had received word of there being difficulty with DPD and decided against coming.
To make it up to the students of OWU, the organizers of the rally issued each person at the OWU rally a VIP ticket to see will.i.am at President Obama’s rally, which was to be held at Ohio State University.
“I’m not making any promises, but you should be able to shake will.i.am’s hand at the very least,” Deininger-Bell said to the crowd.
Deininger-Bell continued to say he was sorry for the complications with DPD.
“The police told me not to say bad things about them, but like, you turn off my power and cancel my event saying I couldn’t hold it on a public forum,” he said, laughing. “Are you kidding me?”
The bus stopped at a Delaware precinct to allow students to vote early, then continued on to the OSU campus.
The crowd from OWU entered the event through the VIP entrance and was ushered to a spot at the front of the stage where will.i.am was about to perform.
While waiting for will.i.am to come on stage, sophomore Banita Giri said she felt the sudden transitions made the event seem “pretty unorganized.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad I came, but it just seems like it totally fell through,” Giri said.
Will.i.am’s performance lasted about 30 minutes. The artist played crowd-pleasers with popular of the Black Eyed Peas like “Boom Boom Pow” and “Imma Be,” but made sure to incorporate his political opinions into each track he sang.
In his performance of “Tonight’s Gonna Be A Goodnight,” will.i.am invited the crowd to chant “four more years” and “let’s do it, four more again,” along to the beat as he sang.
He also played the Sesame Street theme song, referencing presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s comment from the first presidential debate about cutting government funded television, like PBS.
“I want education in the USA, don’t you?” will.i.am asked the crowd before playing the Sesame Street theme song.
“Seriously, we need education to begin as early as possible. This song is the anthem to my childhood and I want to play it for y’all.”
Will.i.am said he was glad to see OWU students having a good time at the event even though he was not able to come perform closer to OWU’s campus.
“The crowd was wonderful, I was glad to see they got here,” will.i.am said. “These are people who really want to change the U.S., who want to change their communities. Energetic, powerful.”
“This is what America looks like when it comes together.”