One of the looming questions coming into convention week was whether the protest movement would catch fire in Denver. Looking back now, it’s probably safe to say that ’68 was not quite re-created. But that doesn’t mean activists failed to show up, be heard, and rankle The Man. Here’s a rundown of the week in protest.
A Monday morning rally drew a pretty sparse crowd in Civic Center Park to hear speeches on political prisoners. Scheduled to start at 9 a.m., things didn’t really get flowing until closer to 11. (I made the mistake of arriving around the announced start time, but so did some of the billed speakers and organizers, including Ward Churchill and former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver). The crowd didn’t get much larger than a few hundred people, and as I walked off around lunchtime, I heard a disappointed TV anchorwoman whine to her camera guy, “I thought they were going to start marching.” That evening was arguably the most visible–and maybe negative–moment for activists, when about 300 anarchists and others marched on downtown and were met by police, who sprayed mace and pepper spray at the group. About 100 arrests were made, and some downtown buildings in the area were put on lockdown during the event. On Wednesday, a group of Iraq Veterans Against the War marched toward the Pepsi Center, in the largest protest of the convention week. Following the Tent State concert featuring Rage Against the Machine, as many as 7,000 supporters approached The Can during “Operation First Casualty,” determined to confront Senator Barack Obama’s staff and directly ask about the Democratic nominee’s position on troop withdrawal in the Middle East. Denver police eventually blocked the group’s progress, and an IVAW representative then met with an Obama campaign staffer, who apparently said the candidate agreed with the group’s goals. An immigration rally yesterday morning was decidedly nonviolent. (It seems any protest event I attend is a little underwhelming. For all I know, things probably blew up when I left around 1 p.m.) About 400 people filled Lincoln Park, and bilingual speakers, including former Denver mayor Federico Pena, talked about our country’s still unaddressed need for a meaningful immigration policy. Based on surveys of T-shirts and posters, the crowd was split between Obama supporters and activists more likely to vote for Ralph Nader, or maybe not at all. But no one could accuse all presidential hopefuls of ignoring the protest movement: Roger Calero of the Socialist Workers Party was in attendance.