DNC: Inside the Protest Zone
August 25, 2008
Reveling in a turnout that began as hundreds and swelled into at least a thousand protesters, Recreate ’68 members naysayed those who said that the event would go bust with small turnouts and a lack of speakers.”People seemed to think of us like they think of cockroaches,” Mark Cohen, Recreate ’68 member, said to the crowd. “They weren’t happy for us to be here. But we’re still here.”Prior to the march through Denver to the Pepsi Center, Recreate ’68 hosted a carousel of speakers on the west steps of the Capitol this morning. The list of speakers included the likes of highly respected veteran and American activist Ron Kovic, author of “Born on the Fourth of July,” to infamous and highly controversial figures like Ward Churchill.Generally, the voices booming out from the Capitol spoke at length against corporations and that electing a Democrat as opposed to a Republican wasn’t going to better represent the American people or end foreign occupation.”The Convention is being sponsored by AT&T,” said Cindy Sheehan, famed anti-war activist. “Who do you think they represent?”The rhetorical question, implying that Democrats and Republicans alike operate in the interest of big corporations, was repeated many times throughout the speaking engagements to cheers from the crowd.The speaking engagements reached their highest and most interesting fervor when African-American Green Party candidates Cynthia McKinney, for president, and Rosa Clemente, for vice president, took the stage.The duo wagged a collective finger at the media and public for overlooking the historical significance of the first ever women-of-color ticket in American history, and not just white media.”There are a lot of black and Latino journalists who are letting us down. How can they not cover American history,” Clemente said. “The media is telling everybody who’s important and who you should listen to.’Clemente described her campaign as representative of the hip-hop generation, and not just of 50 Cent’s ilk, but the kind of hip-hop that acts as a tool for social and political expression.”We are the hip-hop generation,” Clemente said. “We walk to the mic, speak loudly and speak clearly with a political agenda. And that agenda is freedom.”McKinney, the first Green Party presidential candidate since Ralph Nader, said neither Republicans nor Democrats offered any substantial change.”We can see clearly now who the real stick-up artists are and that’s why we’re in Denver. We know that a vote for Democrats is a vote for more war,” she said.Clemente went on to decry the U.S. Government for refusing the votes of Puerto Ricans.”Imagine if they could vote,” she said. “They’d be voting for me, because that’s how Puerto Ricans roll.” Clemente is part African-American, part Puerto Rican.Clemente then introduced underground political hip-hop duo Dead Prez, who performed for about half an hour, after which the march to the Pepsi Center began.***In spite of hype that an overwhelming presence of police among protesters would incite riots and civil unrest, the speaking event and the proceeding march yielded no clouds of tear gas or yippie protesters falling prey to the baton.The only truly volatile incident occurred during Ron Kovic’s speech, when a Fox reporter attempted to interview Ward Churchill and was confronted by a crowd whose hatred for Fox News seemed to trump even their hatred for George Bush or the Iraq war.Just the sight of the man holding a Fox News microphone sent the crowd into a frenzy, as Denver Open Media member Shareef Aleen barricaded the correspondent from Churchill and spat accusations of bias and an intent to put manipulative spin on the event into the reporter’s face.A growing crowd swelled around the two as they verbally sparred. The fracas caught the attention of surrounding police, who began to approach just as someone pulled the Fox reporter from the crowd. The argument ended without any physical violence or police intervention, and Aleen was later seen being formally interviewed by the Fox correspondent during the march.Ron Kovic led the march in his wheelchair while a long stream of following activists hoisted banners, signs and fists into the air accompanying anti-war and anti-government shouts.One young activist, identifying himself as Richard, 18, spoke through veil of a bandanna, telling Fort Collins Now that “we’re out here to make our voices be heard. We’re going to continue and fight until they throw us in their cages or something happens.”Mulligan Johnson, another activist, said that he was out there to protest the war and Democrats, who he said are essentially the same as Republicans. When asked who he supported instead of the two major party tickets, he shrugged his shoulders and said he wasn’t sure.”I’m just an anarchist,” Johnson said.Recreate ’68 organizers Mark Cohen and Glenn Spagnuolo told Fort Collins Now as they were marching that they were very pleased with the turnout.”I think it’s been an awesome day,” said Cohen. “There’s been an incredible list of speakers who have put truth to power.’Cohen conceded that Denver Police maintained an extremely peaceful and cooperative presence. In a recent Fort Collins Now article, fellow Recreate ’68 member Tom Mestnik spouted anti-police rhetoric, saying he was all too sure that police would show up to start a fight. After all, he said, why would they spend $50 million on security if they didn’t intend to use some of their weaponry?But, at least for the morning march, Mestnik was wrong.”So far they’ve (police) been doing pretty well,” Cohen said.The march ended at heavy barricades blocking entrance to the Pepsi Center fronted by an intimidating array of police officers decked out in full riot gear. Protesters stuck around, with some making snide remarks at officers for corralling them and restricting access to surrounding areas.