flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
Two things of significance happened in the vicinity of Federal and Colfax on Thursday. The best attended and covered was Barack Obama's acceptance speech of the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party. I saw portions of the speech in a restaurant with the sound off, but intend to listen to it in full soon. Ten hours or so before Obama took the stage at Mile High, a few thousand immigrants rights supporters gathered for a march. The police and media presence was lower than at the stadium and lower than at the Recreate 68 marches, but the participants were just as energized. The organizers had set up their own security team to keep folks inside the boundaries of the parade route -- a more friendly rapport than cops with guns and body armor.

Before the march, Aztec dancers honored the directions and some folks gave speeches. Boxes of bilingual red and white signs were distributed. Attendance seemed around two thirds Hispanic with a few Asians and African-Americans and a fair number of familiar activist faces from earlier in the week. The Backbone Campaign brought the Organic Farmer and Free Trade Coffee puppets and the 14-foot inflated Statue of Liberty. Marchers included a few kids in strollers and some elders, but the majority were in their teens through forties or so. There were several large banners and plenty of home made signs to compliment the ubiquitous printed red signs.

The march ended in a park and the Aztecs drummed and danced some more before a variety of speakers took the stage while Food Not Bombs gave out free burritos and a few organizations distributed literature. Starting the march in shade around 10 and ending in shade around 11 felt great. The messages were on the whole quite positive: Support for immigrants as people, keeping families together (and thereby opposing ICE raids), and recognition of immigrants as a key strength in the U.S. economy. There was stronger overt support for Obama than in the radical left marches earlier in the week with several rounds of "Sí Se Puede." Given the anti-immigrant vitriol on cable news, I was surprised to only see one counter-protester and that was at the bus stop after I left the speeches.

After the march I returned home to rest my blistered feet, sort through photos, and hang out with [livejournal.com profile] mollybzz and a new friend. I had a great week, took lots of great photos, met some swell people, and got my RDA of exercise through walking. It was good to relax, take a shower, and enjoy the quiet atmosphere of a coffee shop. I wish luck to the folks hoping to spread their message outside the RNC.

Some shouts out for the week:
  • Food Not Bombs for keeping activists, homeless folks, and fed and creating a shady and relaxed atmosphere to hang out
  • Code Pink for being fabulous, ubiquitous, and on-message all over downtown
  • The Backbone Campaign for creating great street art and presenting a positive message
  • The many groups who organized the immigrants rights march
  • Iraq Veterans Against the War for using their socially-granted status of respect to stand for peace
  • Alliance for Real Democracy for embracing nonviolence and for not naming themselves after a year when a lot of bad stuff happened
  • Street medics for making sure everyone had sunscreen and being ready in case anyone had a problem
  • Police officers assigned to march duty for gently keeping folks in the parade route and not doing anything that would escalate into conflict
  • Citizens of Denver who independently shared their own political or amusing messages
  • Homeless guys who hung around downtown so that visitors could encounter some of Denver's normal flavor
  • National Lawyers Guild for keeping an eye on the cops
I hope these blog entries have proved informative and enjoyable. I haven't seen any mainstream media coverage of the DNC, so I don't know how extensively they covered what was going on outside. My big colorful hat got me at least six short interviews, but I couldn't even find the section of the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News the interviewers said they were from. I'm far from an unbiased source, but my goal has been to share whatever messages folks on the streets have, whether I agree with them or not. My photos of the DNC are all free for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. In 1968, gathering tens of thousands of people in the streets was a fairly effective way to share information. In 2008, the Internet has made information dissemination easy; everyone who shows up in a march already knows all about the issues. We cal all be the media.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
IMG_7846I got behind on Democratic National Convention blogging because I've been hanging out with friends instead of sitting in front of the computer. Wednesday and Thursday photos are up on Flickr. My DNC gallery has all 2000+ pictures I took this week.

The main left wing protest event on Wednesday was a concert at the Denver Coliseum with the Flobots, Jello Biafra, Rage Against the Machine, and others followed by an Iraq Veterans Against the War march to the convention site. I had birthday dinner plans with a friend for the evening (thus missing the long march) and the concert didn't sound like a good opportunity for photography, so I decided to wander around downtown and see what random folks were doing.

A lot of people were just sharing their own message with a hand made sign and no organization. I've photographed three different folks with Free Hugs signs this week (something I thought about doing, but decided my big camera might get in the way). There was a "Right Wing Deprogrammer" selling "dunce hats" to folks in line at the Convention Center. Also outside the Convention Center were some PETA folks in pig costumes, two Code Pink women with a banner giving out "Make Out Not War" and "I'm a Delgate for Peace" stickers, Falun Gong meditation and information distribution, two folks with anti-Abortion signs mostly being ignored, a bunch of people selling Obama T-shirts, buttons, and giant foam fingers, and about ten members of the PUMA PAC trying to get delegates to vote for Hillary Clinton. In front of a few nearby sky scrapers were folks holding labor dispute signs.

Along the mall I saw two separate guys with "We Demand Bigger Signs" signs, an old guy with a "Truly Reframe The Abortion Debate / Prevent Abortion, Don't Prohibit Abortion" sign, four guys in blue "Change" shirts playing music (they apparently know exactly one song and sang it all week), a handful of McCain supporters, a woman holding a "Ban Bird Porn" sign (apparently John McCain is an avian voyeur), and people in donkey and elephant fursuits on Segways advertising MSNBC's live broadcasts by Union Station. The same anal-sex-obsessed Christians with a megaphone were out again. This time, clowns were hanging out in front of them to keep things amusing. I tried out my new response line "Reduce abortions, encourage anal sex!" to some giggles. The mall also had the usual suspects including folks selling the homeless newspaper. I had good conversations with Pirate and Cheese. I should hang out with downtown regulars more often.

I finished the day downtown hanging out in the Food Not Bombs corner of Civic Center Park. (The majority of the park had been fenced off to set up for Taste of Colorado, much to the surprise of several activist groups.) I listened to a fantastic Mediterranean/Cumbia jam and tried hooping for peace, but my back was sore from walking all week. I then headed west and had great food and conversation in celebration of the birthday of a college friend. I'm sorry I missed the Iraq Veterans Against the War march, but I figured it would be well covered.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
IMG_7477The Backbone Campaign rocks. They're a group from Washington state who create human-scale puppets and other tools to share a message of progressive ideas in a creative and colorful way. Since I opted for Denver instead of Black Rock this week, I was hoping to find some Burning Man energy. These guys have it: large scale participatory public art.

Unfortunately, a lot of attention was drawn elsewhere. Arrests last night and general low turnout this week meant it was tough to get 150 volunteers to animate puppets and carry banners. As Jim Page was singing on stage, the same Christian blow-hards I blogged about yesterday arrived at the top of the amphitheater and started shouting in a megaphone. The police got them to move further up the sidewalk so people on the benches could still hear the speakers on stage. However, their vitriol attracted a throng of folks like moths and a 300 watt porch bulb. One Recreate 68 member got arrested (I heard it was for "Not complying with a police request" or something) and the crowd followed him to the street where, predictably, several dozen police kept the crowd away while they waited for the paddywaggon. During that process, a Code Pink member ended up on the ground in the street and was then arrested.

I saw the Hillary Clinton supporters march leave, but didn't get a chance to photograph them or check the marcher to officer ratio.

Energy had picked up a bit by the time the Procession for the Future was ready to hit the street. Most of my photos from today are from the march. Unfortunately, the great imagery wasn't seen by many not in the march and the Denver Diner as nobody was hanging out on the blocked-off sections of Colfax.

After resting up (including a bagel and melon slice from the awesome Food Not Bombs) and listening to a few speakers, I wandered back to the 16th St. Mall. Aside from a passing "Life began 4.5 billion years ago. Stop the murder of bacteria!" ejaculation, I passed up the pro-lifers-with-a-megaphone on one side of the street and pro-choicers-with-a-few-signs on the other. A few blocks up I found a much quieter abortion display and asked a few protesters if they supported wide-spread dissemination of birth control. They both said they're okay with condoms, but didn't want to endorse birth control. I got into an extended philosophical discussion with one guy (teenager, I think) about the difficulties (and unhelpfulness) of defining "person" and suggested that, as a practical method of bringing more pregnancies to term, pro-life groups and hopeful adopters should increase the financial incentive for women to deal with nine months of physical and emotional stress. I saw a lot of interesting people on the mall that weren't part of a big organization, just sharing their message as an individual.

Even though the blisters on my feet complained, I walked up to City of Cuernavaca Park to check out Tent State and the Alliance for Real Democracy booths. The trees, grass, and calm people were a welcome refreshment. Despite their out-of-the-way location, they had some neat installations including Eyes Wide Open, a Guantanamo cell, and The Ministry of Propaganda.

The main progressive/radical left event tomorrow is a concert with Rage Against the Machine, the Flobots, and others. I don't think I would learn a lot I don't know there or get many good pictures. So I think I'm going to wander around downtown and start conversations with interesting people. So far my big floppy red+yellow+purple hat has garnered me a bunch of interviews and compliments (including several from police standing around). Thursday's immigrant rights rally might be the best-attended march all week.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
The card someone handed me yesterday said that at 9 Public Enemy would be at Civic Center Park followed by a march at 11. In fact, at 10 there was a folk singer from Seattle on stage while the American Indian Movement got things set up. Several people spoke about racial issues and political prisoners in front of a crowd of 150 at the most. I wandered around and checked out the Pictures of You: Images from Iran exhibit and checked out the Falun Gong marching band and float. Apparently, the Falun Gong marched down to the "Freedom Cage" to play music and hold signs about Chinese torture practices, but since that free speech zone is totally out of the way, nobody was there to hear their message.

At noon, the protesters marched down part of the mall and up to the Federal Building (10th Circuit Courthouse). Speakers talked about Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, and other prisoner issues. 20 or so people did the march in orange jumpsuits and black hoods and then knelt by signs about Guantanamo prison. Someone gave a demonstration of waterboarding (but with a plastic mask over the face for safety). Turnout was pretty low; the march had about as many police (including 20 or so on horse) as protesters.

I wandered back down to the mall and came upon the Angry Christians Holding Signs intersection. Apparently there had just been a confrontation and a few dozen police officers were blocking portions of the intersection while one guy was arrested. There was a small crowd exchanging barbs with the "Homo Sex Is A Sin" crew, but police in the vicinity again outnumbered protesters. There was no police escort for the dozen or so Hillary Clinton supporters marching with signs and balloons on the mall. If march participation is any indication, Leonard Peltier has more support than Hillary Clinton.

After taking some pictures at the Code Pink "look at the absurdity of the freedom cage free speech zone that nobody can see" event, I made my way back to Civic Center where I had an interesting discussion at the Pictures of You installation with a guy born in Iran, a youth whose dad was an Iranian teacher, and a couple middle-aged white guys. Some of the conversation was taped for the documentary they're doing about the piece. I was also interviewed a couple times by the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post because I had a colorful hat. I can't find the parts of their websites the reporters were talking about, though.

On the inside-the-convention front, Michelle Obama's speech and the "candid" family interactions were quite deft political maneuvers. Republicans have had the upper hand in media savvy in recent times, but the Obama campaign are clearly an image force to be reckoned with.

Listening to KGNU tonight, I learned that about 80 people got arrested tonight. Many of them were probably involved in "Unconventional Denver" actions to disrupt some of the 1200 DNC-related parties going on. The police strategy seems to be:
(1) Have heavily-armed police all over the place, standing around and looking imposing.
(2) If something happens, quickly form a large police barrier so crowds can't get in.
I think it's a better strategy than police have adopted at other major protest events in the last ten years, but it's kind of disconcerting to walk down the street with guys in SWAT gear standing around every thirty yards.

The number of folks "on the street" today was already pretty small; if a lot of folks get arrested, later events might be quite vacant. I hope enough people show up tomorrow to power all the street puppets.

Flickr only shows the latest 200 pictures on free accounts' photostreams, so 20 pictures I took yesterday aren't available. I grabbed links to all my photos currently available and stuck them in an ugly page on my site in case you want to find something later. I'm posting to Flickr this week mostly so I can participate in groups and tags. My gallery will be the long-term home for these pictures.
flwyd: (bad decision dinosaur)
Riot 4 Peace (Next Step: Screw 4 Virginity)
The next step is Screw 4 Virginity.

Democrats say some pretty dumb things. But radical leftists say some pretty dumb things too.

Flickr has my DNC photos from Sunday.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
At least a thousand people marched from the Colorado State Capitol to the Pepsi Center, site of this week's Democratic National Convention. Many brought signs and costumes. The Backbone Campaign carried a large inflatable Earth and a set of panels. On the other corner of Colfax and Broadway, a few dozen counter-protesters stood by US flags, anti-abortion, "If you love freedom, thank a vet's family" (but presumably not Cindy Sheehan), and anti-pacifism signs. They were also blaring country music, as if twang would drive left-wingers away. It looked like there were almost as many police officers ringing that corner as there were counter-protesters.

'68 was not recreated during the march. Several dozen police officers bicycled alongside the march and displayed an almost Buddhist detachment despite some taunting. Chants of "This is what a police state looks like" were patently false; Myanmar, Zimbabwe, and China would have arrested everyone as soon as they assembled.

When the march got to the Pepsi Center, participants seemed a bit at a loss, as if they hadn't expected to be milling around outside the fence. 20 or so officers in riot gear stood calmly on the other side of the median while a few dozen police and Secret Service folks stood behind the fence protecting the convention area. A lot more mainstream press was on hand. I saw a blogger for Fox Business News interviewing a delegate from Arizona; he probably would've had plenty of material from the folks with signs, but would that really be Fox? A group moved down a block and turned left and were informed by police megaphone that they were at the end of the parade route so needed to be on the sidewalk. Police brought out waist-high barriers to expand the area around the gate. After a bunch of milling around, demonstrators dispersed. At least 100 people ran along side with cameras; a sizeable minority seemed to be credentialed for convention access.

At 2, marchers headed up the 16th St. Mall with signs, costumes, mobile stereo systems (I didn't expect to hear "Beat It" today) while convention delegates mingled among Obama T-shirt booths, knick-knack stores, and law officers on horses and motorcycles. Again, I didn't see any arrests or so much as a shove. Code Pink gave out stickers that said "Make Out, Not War." 16th St. was probably a better idea for spreading messages; most delegates weren't hanging around on the sidewalks of Speer Blvd. at noon.

The mix of demonstrators included street medics, legal observers, anarchists, old hippies, young hippies, war veterans, two guys in wheel chairs, and a few preteen kids. The predominant concern seemed to be war and peace, but immigrant rights, anti-imperialism, "Obama is a new face on the old empire," and general disruption concerns were also voiced. I gave an interview for a Denver community access channel. It was semi-coherent on the grounds that (a) I was tired from all the heat and walking and (b) I didn't have a particular message to preach, so I tried to summarize some of what people were saying. I also gave the cops props for not escalating things.

Time for a barbecue and some beer; I'll post photos tonight. Check out KGNU's DNC blog (or listen to 1390 AM/88.5 FM) for more news from inside and outside the convention.

Denver Needs Cameras

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008 04:38 pm
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
Democracy in Progress: Keep Out
(Democracy in Progress: Keep Out. The Pepsi Center, where important Democratic business shall take place, is fenced off with security personnel harassing people who take pictures from public sidewalks.)

I'm taking this week off work so I can photograph (and possibly participate in) demonstrations and other interesting activities around the Democratic National Convention in downtown Denver this week. My first update priority will be my Flickr page, but I'll try to make a daily LiveJournal post as well. Flickr will be a "best of" collection, but I'll upload everything in full resolution to my gallery as well and sort it out later.

Creative Commons License All photographs I take around the DNC will be free for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC BY-SA). If you use the pictures, I'd appreciate a note about where and how.
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