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Trevor Stone's Journal
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Demonstration, Not Conflict 
24th-Aug-2008 04:11 pm
transparent ribbon for government accoun
At least a thousand people marched from the Colorado State Capitol to the Pepsi Center, site of this week's Democratic National Convention. Many brought signs and costumes. The Backbone Campaign carried a large inflatable Earth and a set of panels. On the other corner of Colfax and Broadway, a few dozen counter-protesters stood by US flags, anti-abortion, "If you love freedom, thank a vet's family" (but presumably not Cindy Sheehan), and anti-pacifism signs. They were also blaring country music, as if twang would drive left-wingers away. It looked like there were almost as many police officers ringing that corner as there were counter-protesters.

'68 was not recreated during the march. Several dozen police officers bicycled alongside the march and displayed an almost Buddhist detachment despite some taunting. Chants of "This is what a police state looks like" were patently false; Myanmar, Zimbabwe, and China would have arrested everyone as soon as they assembled.

When the march got to the Pepsi Center, participants seemed a bit at a loss, as if they hadn't expected to be milling around outside the fence. 20 or so officers in riot gear stood calmly on the other side of the median while a few dozen police and Secret Service folks stood behind the fence protecting the convention area. A lot more mainstream press was on hand. I saw a blogger for Fox Business News interviewing a delegate from Arizona; he probably would've had plenty of material from the folks with signs, but would that really be Fox? A group moved down a block and turned left and were informed by police megaphone that they were at the end of the parade route so needed to be on the sidewalk. Police brought out waist-high barriers to expand the area around the gate. After a bunch of milling around, demonstrators dispersed. At least 100 people ran along side with cameras; a sizeable minority seemed to be credentialed for convention access.

At 2, marchers headed up the 16th St. Mall with signs, costumes, mobile stereo systems (I didn't expect to hear "Beat It" today) while convention delegates mingled among Obama T-shirt booths, knick-knack stores, and law officers on horses and motorcycles. Again, I didn't see any arrests or so much as a shove. Code Pink gave out stickers that said "Make Out, Not War." 16th St. was probably a better idea for spreading messages; most delegates weren't hanging around on the sidewalks of Speer Blvd. at noon.

The mix of demonstrators included street medics, legal observers, anarchists, old hippies, young hippies, war veterans, two guys in wheel chairs, and a few preteen kids. The predominant concern seemed to be war and peace, but immigrant rights, anti-imperialism, "Obama is a new face on the old empire," and general disruption concerns were also voiced. I gave an interview for a Denver community access channel. It was semi-coherent on the grounds that (a) I was tired from all the heat and walking and (b) I didn't have a particular message to preach, so I tried to summarize some of what people were saying. I also gave the cops props for not escalating things.

Time for a barbecue and some beer; I'll post photos tonight. Check out KGNU's DNC blog (or listen to 1390 AM/88.5 FM) for more news from inside and outside the convention.
Comments 
25th-Aug-2008 12:32 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update. Be curious to see if things change as the convention progresses.
25th-Aug-2008 02:55 am (UTC)
Since you were there and all... what was the point?
25th-Aug-2008 03:20 am (UTC)
The overarching point is providing an opportunity for people to express their views in a public and colorful way. It lets a large group of people express opposition to the war, for instance. The specific point of the Recreate 68 rally wasn't entirely clear when we arrived at the end of the route and didn't have clear direction. I suspect they were expecting or hoping it would turn into a police action and arrived at the destination like a minor party candidate who didn't expect to get elected and isn't sure what policies he's going to pursue.

The week as a whole also has several educational opportunities scheduled ranging from an "Open the debates" event to "How to organize a demonstration" workshops. There isn't a big unified group organizing everything but rather a lot of smallish groups with different messages and different goals that all share time and a place they want to share their concerns. Unfortunately, a lot of it still feels like sound-byte journalism, just on a more personal level. Since I don't have an axe I feel like grinding in such a forum, I figured I'd do my part to share whatever happened and let the viewers take it in.
25th-Aug-2008 03:36 am (UTC)
Ah, that makes sense. I always feel kind of bad for the people who join such a thing with good intentions only to find it co-opted by the neo-anarchists and such who they color the entire rally with a bad name.

I'm not the rallying type, but it's at least good to see that people CAN rally without the need to get arrested. I figured maybe you could at least protest Peter the Great's edict about the shaving of beards :-)
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