Denver: Day One Reflections

Jeff Alworth

[Post updated below the jump.]

Day two begins sunny and clear, as did earlier days.  The world's gearing up for Hillary Clinton's speech tonight, and the enduring meme--will Hillary delegates come around?--remains the topic du MSM.  (NPR had not one but two stories on Morning Edition about the fissure in the party.)  It's looking to me like the severity of that issue has been seriously exaggerated, but perhaps I can learn more today.  But before day one gets totally lost to the mists of time, I did want to do a final recap from yesterday.

This is another issue that seems to be exaggerated.  Sunday's march caused security to tighten up, and there's now a long-range perimeter barricade around the Pepsi Center.  But I see almost no evidence of real protest.  There have been scattered groups who have unfocused messages, but they don't seem to have much of a plan of action.  Yesterday, outside the Pepsi Center, one lone protester screamed that we were living in a police state.  The most common presence is of fringe Christian groups with doomsday signs and harsh, anti-gay messages.  All the protesters--religious and political--are treated politely by semi-curious onlookers, but mostly ignored.

There are sightings large and small to be had throughout Denver. There's a place called the "Big Tent" where bloggers hang out.  It's a two-story makeshift facility wedged in between buildings, sporting an industrial aesthetic: the first floor is where bloggers do their thing amid steel, stone, and wires; the second floor has speakers and panel discussions.  It's where the hip politicos hang--I saw everyone from Rachel Maddow and David Sirota to Kos and Atrios.  Kari saw, in short succession, Darryl Hannah and Don Sigielman there.  But my favorite sighting was Ron Wyden last night at an Oregon delegation party following the speeches. After introductions, we delved into health care policy.  When wonks collide!  Very cool start to a discussion I hope to continue sometime down the road.

I can't wait for an economist to calculate the effect of the Obama campaign on the economy.  Based on the cottage industry in Obama-related tchotchkes and the appropriation of Obama to sell random products like burritos and beer, it's got to be substantial.  For groups trying to get their message out, the influx of people has been an opportunity to hand out fliers.  Yesterday's haul: two Christian tracts, an announcement of a healthcare rally on Wednesday, a Nader flier for an event with Jello Biafra, Cindy Sheehan, Val Kilmer, Sean Penn, and others, and a flier from Metro Cab, which is trying to unionize.  (Needless to say, ride Metro if you have a chance.)

Video and Pictures
I have a shorty vid from last night I intended to post, but Youtube is totally bollixed up.  I'll try to get it up today.  I'm also getting pictures online.  I've got a Flickr set here.

[Update: vid now embedded in text.]

[Update 2:  I totally forgot to expound on the wholesale crappiness of the seats for the Oregon delegation.  The arena is arranged like a fan, with the speaker's podium in the center.  If the folks directly in front of the podum are 12 o'clock, then the fan extends from about 8 o'clock on the left to 4 o'clock on the right.  The terminal positions of the fan are actually slightly behind the stage.  Oregon is located at 4 pm.  But it doesn't stop there.  We gaze out upon those in front of us and toward the center: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Mississippi, Guam.  Now, someone's got to be in the crappy seats.  Organizers could assign seats randomly, but they don't.  You need only look at the arrangement of swing states clustered near the front and center to see that: Florida, Michigan (rewarded despite their apostasy), Wisconsin, Missouri, etc.  So why is Oregon, who is surely more in play than non-delegate granting Guam, way back in the shadows.  Who'd we piss off?)

  • LT (unverified)

    The "dead children" poster reminds me of the 1984 convention. Do they really think that still works after all these decades?

    Tom Harkin (great guy if you have a chance to meet him) was running for US Senate in 1984 against a RTL-endorsed incumbent (the year Tom was first elected to US Senate) and a friend of mine was working on the campaign. Really nasty RTL attacks, as you might imagine.

    I was in the middle of a row in the Oregon delegation and some guy was walking down the aisles trying to pass out what were PRO LIFE DEMOCRATS fliers with the dead fetus picture on the front. I yelled to him that I'd like to write a message on the back of the flier and pass it back to him. So it was passed down, and I got out my pen to write on the back, "If you really are pro-life DEMOCRATS, why aren't you supporting Tom Harkin for U S Senate?".

    I passed it back down the row, put the cap on the pen, looked up and he had vanished.

    But the next day when I met Tom Harkin, the story really made him laugh.

    The other thing those demonstrators don't realize is how many people understand that time spent in such protests could be better spent helping actual families with kids.

    And anyone who has had a premature birth in the family knows there are families who might not be able to afford all the care needed. Where are these protestors on that issue---or do they just enjoy being obnoxious?

  • Chris #12 (unverified)

    Check out these pictures and stories of the polite treatement of protestors by the Denver Police. It would be nice to see some delegates, bloggers, or others speak out about this.

    Denver Police Violence

    Press Release

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    I don't know about protests but the discovery of an assassination plot by white supremacists makes me hope that security is very very tight.

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    thanks, jeff....great stuff. Rachel Maddow....yyyyuuuuuummmmm!

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    How's Jane Hamsher grab you? She's blogging about five feet away from me.

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    I tend to like the butch ones, but still....yer making me ever so jealous....

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    Rachel is my "if I wasn't married to a man (a wonderful one at that" choice....

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    Chris #12 It would be nice to see some delegates, bloggers, or others speak out about this.

    OK, sure, as a blogger, I'll speak out. Quoting directly from the site:

    The pepper bullet incident happened on Monday around 7pm when a small group of young anarchists covered their faces with bandanas, linked arms and began to march down Colfax Avenue without a permit. The Denver Police formed a riot line, but the anarchists refused to stop, walking directly into police.

    Without warning, the police responded with pepper bullets and pepper spray...

    Yup, totally without warning. I wonder just what could have set those cops off? Besides, you know, a bunch of mask wearing yahoos trying to bowl them over? And how could the police, in a volatile situation in waining daylight, possibly not distinguish between these yahoos and the much larger "curious" crowd of protesters following closely behind? Especially when none of them had a parade permit?

    I'm sure there was, as is always in these cases, a number of cops who overreacted. But as it was in the case of Georgia vs Russia, if you positively insist on poking a bear with a stick, don't whine about what happens next.

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    My husband and I were walking down the 16th St. Mall yesterday. The weird religious people (big signs about rebellious women and homosexuals and Jesus) were gathered at one corner. Maybe 10 of them. The anarchists, about the same number, decided to gather at the same corner. (You can tell they're anarchists because they all have bandanas--it's their credential.)

    There was some shouting back and forth, and then one of the anarchists started drumming really loudly. The police surrounded him quickly and told him to stop. He resisted, a bunch of cops took him down. The anarchists started screaming "Fucking pigs" and grabbing at the cops. They also yelled "You have megaphones, we have drums."

    Lots of people gathered around and it seemed like everyone was trying to take a pic or video. And the cops had video cameras too. So, they were all videoing each other. I thought it was pretty funny.

    The anarchists were screaming, and one girl ran by me crying hysterically. I didn't get it....this was a Girl Scout picnic compared to a real protest.

    We walked around the block to get out of there. It was all over in a second, and it looked to me like the cops were sort of heavy handed taking the guy down, but he resisted mightily.

    I can't figure out what the point is other than to disrupt the process and taunt the security folks. I was sitting in a cafe yesterday when a protest went down the street. I got out too late to find out what it was about and asked a bystander who had been there. Her answer: "beats me."

    Most of the security people I have encountered have been pleasant. It's a huge number of people in town, there's been a rumor of an assassination plot, and they just want to keep things safe. It's quite a mixture of police, sheriff, homeland security. I've even seem Army and AFT t-shirts.

    The one thing I did find a little disturbing was the private security people standing outside Nike. They were equipped with gas masks.

    I expect there have been some nasty isolated incidents. On the other hand, I don't think peaceful protesters who have parade permits have been bothered. The parade I saw was escorted by police. The protesters described in the link above decided to interrupt traffic without a permit. And yes, I know we've had our own "permit wars' in Portland. But I've also been to some huge and very peaceful protests in Portland.

    Mr. Super (California DNC member Ed Espinosa) posted this comment on DemConWatch.

    There was one massive demonstration and I couldn't figure out what it was for. One of the news stations tried to find out and all the protesters ended up doing was telling off the reporter en mass.

    Good blog for convention news....schedules and text of speeches.

  • RW (unverified)

    It's all a joke. It's a parade. It's drama and color and energy blasting off. But the meaning is nowhere near frontstage.

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    Jenny continues to rock.

  • Chris #12 (unverified)


    Apparently, the incident you talk about (and I would agree--pretty stupid) happened after this:

    "Glenn said that the incident last night started around 5:30pm, when heavily-armed police in SWAT gear began making random sweeps through Civic Center Park, harassing people sitting in the grass by poking them with nightsticks and telling them to get up and leave. Glenn complained several times to the protester's police liaison, and the police would stop the harassment, just to start it again a few minutes later. He said that happened about 4 or 5 times. Glenn said some of the kids in the park became annoyed and formed a circle and started chanting "No Justice, No Peace" and put bandanas on their faces. He said that the police got worked up and came in pretty heavy and opened up with pepper spray and pepper bullets into the crowd without warning. The police chased the crowd through the park towards 15th and Cleveland, where there was another line of police waiting to surround the people running from the police and prevent them from leaving. Glenn says the police surrounded the crowd, which included frightened and crying children, and began pushing them back and crushing the crowd together. He said they were detained for well over an hour."

    Who's provoking who?

    I would argue that this is more about quashing dissent then security, and that the Democratic Party should do more to ensure people's right to protest.

  • Chris #12 (unverified)

    OK, if police violence against those awful "black-clad anarchists" doesn't make you mad, what about when they deck little ladies in pink?

    Code Pink Wackin

    Oh, and if you can't understand why people would not want to talk to that "reporter" from Fox, I'm very worried...

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    I've walked around a bit in spite of the heat and found a few disorganized protesters, typically with a sign that seems ineffective with communicating a message. The police have been polite and seem indifferent to orderly expression of speech. (loud and obnoxious seems "orderly")

    My reaction to the police presence is an appearance of the reinforcement of the culture of fear we have created in the last 7 years. Perhaps we will never return to a time when SWAT teams are roaming the streets?

    I seem more groups with some rather odd issue binding them together, like the "investigage 9/11" who all have black t-shirts and walk up and down the 16th street walking mall. They seem ernest but not at all threatening.

    <h2>The button sellers far out number the marching advocates and none of the sellers seem at all political. It's just a gimic for them.</h2>

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