Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Vibe.com@DNC :: Day 0: De Colores

On the way in from the airport, highway cops are pulling over speeding, oblivious California drivers. It’s a ticketing bonanza. The highway alert signs read, “Welcome to Denver and Colorful Colorado.”

For that past two decades, that color has mostly been red—the latest polls show McCain ahead of Obama by a single point. But there’s no doubt now the Democrats have now taken over Denver.

The sign at the Conoco gas station down Speer from the Pepsi Center says, “Welcome to Obamarado.” And the National Black Republican Association billboards in this Highland neighborhood—where crack heads and dog owners, liquor stores and 4-star restaurants, new condo owners and working-class brown families share the streets—have been altered. This morning they read, “Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican”. This afternoon they read, “Martin Luther King Jr. is a Obama-can.”

Perhaps the most unmistakeable sign that the Democrats were in town this morning—beyond the hipsters in black Run DNC tees and the masses on the 16th Street Mall flying their blue credentials—was the overwhelming presence of riot cops. Not just Denver PD, but hundreds more imported from Aurora and Lakewood.

They were outside the Record Exchange spot on Colfax, pissing off the aloha-shirted owner. They were at Union Station protecting the Patron Tequila Express train car. They were roaming the streets, nine deep astride white O.J. Broncos. They were waving to the pro-war demonstrators who cheered them when they drove by. They were gone by the time the pro-war demonstrators handed their mic to a woman who sang a rendition of “God Bless America” as if she were auditioning for a 7th inning in the Bronx.

And after a large gathering on the Capitol steps this morning headlined by Dead Prez and Green Party VP nominee Rosa Clemente (with presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney watching), they were chasing down a thousand protestors riding under the bizarre banner of “Recreate ’68″ as the marchers headed to the Pepsi Center.

Protesters made holding the Democrats accountable to their two-year promise to the end the war the theme of the day. In the afternoon, a second set of marchers went through the 16th Street Mall, shut down traffic in parts of the downtown area, and resulted in some stand-offs with riot cops.

But aside from traffic tie-ups and ritualized stand-offs, these were not the stunning surgical strikes that greeted the Republicans in Philadelphia in the summer of 2000, shut down the city for a day, and resulted in hundreds of arrests and not a few bashed heads. Nor were they Rage Against The Machine’s Battle of Los Angeles at the Democratic Convention that year, which ended in a teargas-clouded police riot before the band even hit the stage.

No, although one white R68 organizer Jill Dreier told me it was racist to ask her whether some voters didn’t think Obama might represent change because he was of color—interesting definition of racism, that—the feel wasn’t so much in-your-face as lazy Sunday afternoon.

Shit was so chill that those 200 afternoon marchers who had set out for the Capitol finally arrived there about a half-hour after Blue Scholars and Common Market had finished their blazing set. (The performers had even started, as asked, on hip-hop time—an hour late.)

Tourists and bicyclists—Denverites love bicycles—stopped to gawk at all the cute kids in their fashionable black bandanas, their orange and black flags, their blue “Riot 4 Peace” sign. Food Not Bombs even fed a few of them. Then the marchers, after a brief facedown with the cops, took off down 17th Street, leaving the frustrated old soundman to dismantle the entire speaker system with his wife.

Three other groups of demonstrators marched in the other direction, to the north, gathering in Cuernavaca Park for a different rally. The Tent State gathering, assembled by organizers who broke off from R68 earlier this year, attracted 10,000 to call on the Democrats to end the war. On Wednesday, they will take over Denver Coliseum for a morning show with Rage Against The Machine, Flobots, and The Coup. And on Thursday, R68 and Tent State both expect to support a massive rally for immigration rights.

There will be a lot more color to see this week, and once the Convention opens Monday night with a keynote by Michelle Obama, that color may be primarily blue.

Stay tuned.

posted by @ 10:31 pm | 0 Comments



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