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Democratic supporters rally outside presidential debates in Detroit

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Fox Theatre in Detroit holding signs for their preferred candidate or cause.

DETROIT — Washington state Governor Jay Inslee was one of 20 candidates hoping to make a mark with a political performance Wednesday night on the same stage once shared by the Supremes, Soundgarden, and Smokey. 

Others shared a different platform outside.

Matthew Doolan proudly stood outside the Fox Theatre, sweating in the 80-degree heat. 

"I love the attention. I am typically the center of attention. I'm the currently the world sign spinning champion," he said, twirling a sign reading "Delaney" for candidate John Delaney

"He does seem to be a more lower-tier candidate for the Democratic party, but that's typically I vote for," said the Dallas man as he attracted attention in the kind of makeshift carnival. 

Hundreds just stood outside the theater over the last two days holding signs or marching as a way to attract attention for their candidates or particular issues. There was the "Green New Deal" Band and a collection of people propping up different candidates.

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Two friends held up their "Williamson for President" signs, not overtly attempting to attract to attention. LB ElleBeah and Brenda Chatman, both born and raised in the Detroit-area, said they felt they had a personal connection with the longshot candidate Marianne Williamson. That's what prompted them to stand outside the theater among other competing groups.

"A lot of people had gotten complacent, I had gotten complacent," acknowledged ElleBeah. "Her books and her messages and teaching gave me a change in my mindset."

"The biggest issue for me is right now is reparations, but should really be known as restitution," she continued. "Restitution for slavery, this is something that would heal the heart of America. We're in a crisis right now because of race relations in this country. We're in a mess right now racially in this country."

"We can come together as Americans and can agree to disagree, and this is the part of what it means to be an American to voice your opinion," said Chatman.

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Down the street, Michael McCord rode around in a motorized scooter, selling bumper stickers. He said he wished the candidates talked more about the health care for veterans.

"We have millions of veterans going around," he said, "broken teeth, problems with health." 

"The money is there, just have to allot it to veterans," he continued. "We earned it." 

McCord says he is undecided on a candidate, but lauded Inslee for his environmental platform.

"Why aren't the other candidates issues making an issue of climate change?" McCord said. "He's the only one doing it. I applaud him for that."

Inslee still needs to qualify for the next debate in Houston in September. That is not certain. But this political circus will likely be there with guys like Doolan almost playing the role of a ringleader.

"(This) is what America is about – freedom of speech, freedom of expression," he said with a smile.

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