The police presence here in Denver is overwhelming. As the Democratic National Convention (DNC) is set to begin tonight, several thousand "alternative convention-goers" have already descended on the Mile High City, with issues as diverse as homelessness, abortion, universal healthcare, and stopping the war in Iraq.
This alternative convention is dubbed, “The Festival of Democracy” by local organizers who are not always on the same page politically. It seems that the umbrella group, Recreate68, started to fractionalize as the convention date got closer. Some protesters prefer focusing on educating and engaging with the official delegates and the general public, while others call for direct action and outright disruption of DNC activities this week.
Denver’s Cuernavaca Park is home base for some groups. The Alliance for Real Democracy is comprised of anti-war and pro-peace groups like Code Pink, Iraq War Veterans Against the War, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and United for Peace and Justice.
The homegrown Recreate68 group is basing itself in front of the state capitol at Civic Center Park, and takes a more in-your-face confrontational approach. It includes groups such as Food Not Bombs and DNC Disruption’08. The website for dncdisruption08.org,says “Plan on maximizing the street party on Sunday, organizing creative disruptions of delegate activities on Monday and creating decentralized alternatives and actions against environmental destruction on Wednesday.”
Former state senator and Chicago 8 defendant, Tom Hayden, speaking to a packed Central Presbyterian Church at the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) forum, said that he had actually sat down with Denver’s Chief of Police before yesterday’s protests began. Hayden said the Department of Homeland Security gave the Denver Police Department “$50 million” for new equipment. “The police chief told me, ‘There’s 20 jurisdictions involved’ and therefore the streets were “not really controlled by anyone.”
Hayden said he thought there were just too many police out in force and that “too much law and order is what causes disorder.” The Denver Post reported in Monday’s edition that only one arrest had taken place by 3 p.m. Sunday.
These somewhat disparate protest groups have come together to publish a sophisticated schedule of activities fitting in an entire month of activist activities into only one week, culminating in the organization of bus rides for protesters who want to go on to Minneapolis for the start of the Republican National Convention. The RNC begins Sept. 1, Labor Day.
Along with daily rallies and marches—with names like Funk the War, Reclaim the Streets Party, and End the Occupation—multiple musical groups are also scheduled, including: Public Enemy, Michelle Shocked, Jello Biafra, and Rage Against the Machine. A Critical Mass bike ride is set for Wednesday as well.
As helicopters whizzed and whirred overhead, with police in riot gear standing at the ready, and at least two dozen mounted police patrolling the outskirts of the rally area, not one but two rallies were held on the steps of the Colorado state capitol building on Sunday. Separate protest groups organized each rally and march.
Recreate68 has been organizing for more than a year and a half, according to one of its founders, Mark Cohen. Cohen was with former Black Panther and current law professor, Kathleen Cleaver on Monday morning, as they were leaving Civic Center Park on a “Prisoners Rights March” to the Federal Court House. Cohen reflected on Sunday’s day of protest and today’s march that was just beginning. “It’s been fantastic so far. We marched right up to the Pepsi Center and they said that was not going to be possible, but we marched.” Yesterday’s rally had as featured speakers, Cindy Sheehan, Vietnam vet Ron Kovic, Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, and fired University of Colorado Ethnic Studies Professor Ward Churchill.
"Why have so few people shown up to protest?" we asked. “We had about 1,000 at the rally and 2000 marched. There’s 30,000 cops, probably scared off a lot of people,” Cohen replied. And today? “It’s a little sparse, not as many as we would like.” After today’s march, Cohen said, Recreate68 would host a group of bands at the park from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m.