A man carrying puppets of Sesame Street characters Elmo and Kermit takes part in the "Million Puppet March" on Saturday.

Story highlights

The rally was inspired by comments Romney made during a debate

He says he would stop federal funding of PBS, home to "Sesame Street" and Big Bird

Some protesters dressed as their favorite characters

Washington CNN  — 

“El-mo. We won’t go!”

The twist on a popular protest chant echoed Saturday as people marched – many in costume or with puppets – in support of public broadcasting.

The so-called Million Puppet March in Washington was inspired by comments GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney made during the first debate. Romney promised to stop funding to the Public Broadcasting Service, home to “Sesame Street” and Big Bird.

Protesters met at Lincoln Park and marched to the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

“We came down to support PBS and to support freedom of speech in our nation’s capital,” said Jim Brett, who went to Washington with his kids, along with various puppets.

Will Big Bird be downsized?

“PBS is important to me because I grew up on it,” he said. “It’s a foundation for our children today.”

One protester held a placard that read, “Hundreds of channels to influence consumers! Zero channels to invest in citizens?” Others were dressed like Cookie Monster and the Count, both popular “Sesame Street” characters.

PBS is partially funded through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which receives about $450 million a year – a fraction of this year’s $3.5 trillion federal government spending. “Sesame Street” is produced by Sesame Workshop, which says 93% of its costs are funded by corporate sponsors and licensing.

“I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS,” Romney said to Jim Lehrer, who moderated the first debate and anchors “PBS Newshour.”

“I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird,” he said. “Actually like you, too. But I’m not going to – I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”

Romney really does like PBS