Revolution#141, August 24, 2008
The following are three articles from the coverage of the Denver protests available on the website of the World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime. “Rocking the Coliseum” is about the march of 6,000 youth after a concert sponsored by the Iraq Veterans Against the War and Tent State University, headlined by Rage Against the Machine. The second article is about “An Evening of Conscience” sponsored by World Can’t Wait, attended by 300 people. The third article, “Marching Through Denver,” reports on the anti-war march on Sunday, August 24, that kicked off the week of protests. For more first-hand coverage of the protests in Denver, including photos and video clips, go to the World Can’t Wait web site at worldcantwait.org, There is also an extensive gallery of protest photos on the Denver Post website.
Rocking the Coliseum: 6,000 Youth March Through Denver
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
A crowd of jubilant and angry youth estimated by the police to number 6,000 ripped through the streets of Denver on Wednesday, August 27, in a powerful march demanding an end to the war in Iraq, no attack on Iran, and support for GI resisters. Marching from the Denver Coliseum, where Rage Against the Machine, the Flobots, and the Coup had just finished a mind blowing concert, to the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver, the youth filled the streets of an industrial district, a residential area, and the canyons of downtown Denver with their chants and songs: “They’re our brothers, they’re our sisters; we support the war resisters”; “the people of Iraq are under attack—what do we do, stand up, fight back!”; “Not a new face on a brutal empire, Revolution is what we need, to liberate humanity!”
Iraq Vets Against the War had issued three demands after their march through the central district of Denver on Tuesday:
- The immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq.
- Full and adequate health care and benefits to all returning service members and veterans.
- Reparations made to the Iraqi people for the destruction caused by the U.S. war and occupation. These demands were addressed from the stage during the concert, and RATM members called on people to stand with the veterans and join them in their march downtown.
This march was not politics as usual or protest as usual. Youths had come prepared with their homemade signs, proudly and defiantly holding high their declarations on pieces of cloth or cardboard. A small sample: Funk the War; Bush is to Iraq as Obama wants to be to Iran; Fuck your Crusade; Drop Beats, Not Bombs; Who would Jesus Bomb?; Save the Planet from the War Mongers. They challenged bystanders to join them, and many did, from guys in work clothes who had just finished their shifts, to at least a few delegates to the DNC, to well dressed downtown office workers who stood with fists or peace signs raised as the march went by, before finally taking the plunge to join the march.
A young woman from a small town in Kansas said “we’re just sick of the fucking war, and they aren’t even talking about it. Somebody’s got to do something,” A young man who goes to college in nearby Boulder said “a lot of the people here don’t usually go to protests, because they don’t see what good it does. But this is our voice being heard.”
Large contingents of heavily armed riot cops looking like 21st century ninjas were everywhere. As the march neared the Pepsi Center, police tried to herd the youth into the infamous “freedom cages.” But the vets, and the youth, refused to go. Several vets spoke briefly as the march stopped for a few minutes, hemmed in by police, concrete barricades, and wire fences. One of them was a young soldier who defiantly announced that a few months earlier he had refused to deploy to Iraq. “Our enemies are at home, ladies and gentlemen. We stand here in defense of our Constitution, and against the illegality of this government. I will not take another’s life, who never did anything to this country to begin with. Let us never stand by in apathy, while lives are taken overseas and our rights here are stripped.”
Another soldier, Sholom Keller, said “the police are in full battle rattle. The police appear to be ready for war, but we stand here ready for peace. Police attempts to move us into this thing called a freedom cage are going to fail.”
The march of youth and veterans was an invigorating and challenging break with the politics of compromise, accommodation, and acceptance. The youth who marched insisted on being heard—and they represent millions of others in this country sick at its direction and what it is inflicting on humanity and the planet. The power and determination expressed during this march, even in a beginning way, must become much more forceful and determined in the weeks and months ahead.
An Evening of Conscience
Monday, 25 August 2008
I think that it’s true when people say that all eyes are on Denver. There are celebrities and politicians walking the streets. Radical musicians are performing for the people almost daily. News media from throughout the country and all around the world.
And with all this attention here, there’s an important opportunity to seize: an opportunity to bust through the suffocating Democratic cooperation with the crimes of the Bush Regime; an opportunity and need for people to protest and make their voices heard. To say an emphatic no to the wars and repression, no to the infuriating insult that all we can do is contained within the narrow confines of official electoral politics. Walking down the street I just feel like there is no place I’d rather be than in Denver, Colorado at this very point in history.
In Chicago 1968, Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies wanted to be the “commercial” to the Democratic National Convention. I think that was a noble goal. Provide an alternative distraction to the “Convention of Death,” as they called it back then, and not be constrained by what was considered to be acceptable protest.
Flash forward to Sunday night, August 24, 2008. The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater held an Evening of Conscience. World Can’t Wait sponsored this event full of fantastic speakers, with its focus being No War on Iran. I would say that this particular event was more than a “commercial” that people defaulted to because there was nothing else on. This event captured the spirit of resistance that pulsed through Denver on Sunday, and vitally needs to be expressed by much larger numbers in Denver and throughout society.
The speakers were as varied as they come. There were people running for political office and veterans of both the Iraq and Vietnam War. There were independent journalists, revolutionary journalists and revolutionary communists, and people from Progressive Democrats of America—who all united under the fact that an attack on Iran would be unacceptable and that things in this society needed to change.
What I found refreshing and envigorating was that people were talking about how to get beyond politics as usual. There was no illusion as to whether or not Obama, or McCain for that matter, were going to be the ones to bring about change. Real change is going to come from the people.
Cynthia McKinney, who is running for president under the Green Party, boldly proclaimed her radicalness and called out so called “Hollow Women of the Hegemon”—bourgeois leaders like Condaleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi, who people think have their interests at heart but are really pushing this country further towards empire. And she contrasted those women with Cindy Sheehan, who also spoke and who is running for Congress against Nancy Pelosi, and reminded us that the problem and the challenge are much bigger than getting women into political office, and that we should start looking at the system.
Sunsara Taylor spoke about the earlier rally and march that took place that day and was brutally honest about the fact that we did not have the numbers we needed. She sent out props and heartfelt love to the courageous people who did defy the fear mongering, threats, and police presence marshaled by the government and the press. She called out the people who tried to suppress protest—supposedly “progressive” activists, and told us that if you are more concerned about getting Democrats elected than you are with the fate of humanity, then you cannot call yourself an anti-war leader. She also exposed the utter and thorough worthlessness of this capitalist system, and how it can never act in the interests of the people, no matter who is elected, and put forward a very enthusiastically received call for revolution.
Jeremy Scahill spoke scathingly about Joe Biden as Obama’s choice for vice-president, and the irony of proclaiming yourself as a candidate for change when your V.P. choice is one of the longest serving senators in Congress who has voted for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and countless other atrocities perpetrated by the U.S.
I was really inspired by Phil Aliff from Iraq Veterans Against the War who has the courage to speak up and try to stop a war that he was a part of. Then there’s Ron Kovic, author of Born on the Fourth of July, who actually read from the introduction of the 2005 edition of his book. This was a powerful moment. He had such important things to say and one part that struck me was when he was talking about being in the war and gaining something from it, and what he gained was Awareness.
Pam Africa and Ramona Africa also said a few words to the crowd showing us that the revolution continues. And then we closed with the reading of the Not In Our Name Pledge of Resistance, led by the formidable Cleo Parker Robinson and joined in by the evening’s speakers and members of the audience.
I walked away from this event inspired to take on the world. I have sat at plenty of events and heard speakers speak about all sorts of things. This Evening of Conscience was different. Because the people speaking were looking at reality and realizing that real change was needed, there was no confusion about whether or not either candidate was going to bring about the change we need. What we are doing in Denver is correct, and people who are not in Denver should be in Denver. When we take to the streets we are telling the world that we refuse to go along with Bush’s program, no matter which presidential candidate takes it up.
Marching Through Denver: Fighting for an End to War, Torture, and Government Repression
Monday, 25 August 2008
Early on Sunday, August 24, 2008, over 700 people gathered in front of the Capitol Building in Denver to kick off a week of events protesting the Democratic National Convention, as well as the oppression of the militaristic environment those of us who choose to express the freedom of speech the government seeks to deny.
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 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. People came from as far away as Florida and Massachusetts.
The march had its own vitality and beat, which set the stage for the day of spirited marches and moments of confrontation. In the face of weeks of threats of repression and the development of a massive deployment of police equipped with everything from the traditional billy clubs and guns to the most modern of high tech weapons of “crowd control”; defying the construction of “Gitmo on the Platte” and wired “freedom cages” where people would be “free” to express their opinions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the development of a police/spy state, and other measures developed by the Bush Regime with the full cooperation of the Democratic Party; in defiance of the Democrats themselves and many self described “peace activists” who have shamed themselves by refusing to participate in the protest events in Denver and calling on others also to stay away; people set off on a lively and determined march.
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!”
The World Can’t Wait contingent was large and lively, and its politics of defiance and resistance permeated the march. The color orange—the infamous orange the U.S. government has forced on the prisoners at Guantanamo, and which has been taken up by World Can’t Wait as a powerful and colorful symbol of resistance to the torture state and solidarity with those it persecutes—permeated the march. Orange banners, placards, and bandanas were everywhere.
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, noticeable 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 lively beat of its own.
Once the march stopped at the gates of the Pepsi Center, where the repressive 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 face to face confrontation 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 a radical activist in 1968, would have been proud! He always said you win if they lose and everyone goes home to fight another day!
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