DENVER, Colo. — Starting on Sunday, August 24, 2008, over 700 people gathered in front of the Capitol Building in Denver to kickoff the weeklong events protesting the democratic national convention, as well as the oppression of the militaristic environment those of us who choose freedom of speech have been denied.
At 9 AM the rally began with a lineup of motivational speakers, high up on the Capitol steps. The rally was called by Recreate 68, mostly comprised of local anti-war groups and residents of Colorado. The protesters heard speeches from Cindy Sheehan, Fred Hampton Jr., Ron Kovic, Vietnam vet and author of “Born on the Fourth of July”, Ward Churchill, Larry Hales, Cynthia McKinney, Larry Holmes, and others, and were roused by a performance by performance by Dead Prez.
Ron Kovic, Vietnam Veteran and author “Born on the fourth of July,” Cindy Sheehan, Peace Mom and Congressional Candidate in San Francisco, Cynthia Mckinney, Green Party Presidential Candidate, Fred Hampton, Jr., son of the former Black Panther, Larry Holmes, Troops Out Now Coalition, and were roused by the music of Dead Prez.
The scene in front of the building, although not a replica of Chicago in 1968 where thousands protested and were beat up by the police, was alive and energized with people from all walks of life, from locations all over the Country, and ranged from age 2 to 72. It had it’s own vitality and beat, which set the stage for the day of spirited marches and moments of confrontation.
The March to the Pepsi Center
At about 11 AM everyone stepped off and got into the streets determined to march directly to the Pepsi Center, about a mile away. The Denver Police would not grant a permit to R68 to get as far as the Pepsi Center, where the convention delegates and press were. Instead, they were determined to force protesters into the “Freedom Cage” constructed for “freedom of speech.” The Cage was far enough away from where the delegates were to keep them from actually seeing or hearing the demands being made by the people to stop the wars, end oppression, end torture, and give us our constitution back!
But the activists involved in the march were not going to accept the herding into the Cage. The numbers swelled to over 1,000 as the march progressed. The street was filled with protesters from curb to curb. The march was led by anti-war Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic, in his wheelchair and joining the chants calling for shutting down Guantanamo to Troops home now. The crowd was so alive and determined it was something that couldn’t be ignored.
Meanwhile, the Denver police, seen earlier with their new troops transport trucks which allow them to ride on the outside dressed in full battle gear carrying machine guns, and police and bicycles carrying cuffs, batons, mace, and sidearms, all followed and surrounded the march. The police were ignored and the marchers were loud and defiant taking time to chant “5, 4, 3, 2, 1″ and some would drop to the streets in a mock-die in, and the chant would resume “Rise UP! Rise UP! For the people of the World are Watching!”
Heading for the Pepsi Center, the police stopped the front line contingent at a spot to direct them into the cage. One of the R68 organizers told the police we were marching directly to the Pepsi Center under our First Amendment Rights. After a conversation, the police broke the line of blue barricade, and let it go. The crowd felt the palpable victory just won, and became more determined to have their voices heard throughout the City.
The media was in abundance, marching and filming the entire time. As you looked up and down the street you could see wall to wall activists, which included some delegates, noticible by their badges and buttons; anarchists, peace activists, pro-choice activists, former soldiers, mothers, fathers and their kids. It was actually breathtaking, and the press knew it.
Even though it had not been exactly a recreation of the Chicago march, it had a new and better life of it’s own.
Once the march stopped at the gates of the Pepsi Center, where the repressivwe forces were waiting, machine guns in hand, Ron Kovic told everyone to sit down, and show determined defiance of the police state. Hundreds did, right in front of the gates, and it remained that way for about 15 minutes. He gave a rousing speech, and activists were chanting and yelling. Rising, the protesters remained directly in front of the Center, demanding they be heard. The standoff with 1,000 protesters and the police became a very tense situation, and both sides were ready for whatever would happen next.
After about 30 minutes of intense eye contact and angry shouts, delegates needing to get inside started mixing in with the protesters showing their badges to get inside, which they couldn’t. The sun beat down, and the heat from the street was extreme. They held their ground, and won the struggle by having their presence felt and known to those inside the DNC, who were flooding out to take pictures, and those who were trying to get inside.
The marchers walked off, slowly in the direction that was not permitted, and kept marching all the way back to the Capitol.
Abbie Hoffman, who was an extreme activist in 1968, would have been proud! He always said you win if they loose and everyone goes home to fight another day!