DNC POSTSCRIPTS - Continued
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We were in Denver from Saturday August 23 through Friday August 29, 2008 for the DNC.
Read: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Here are some postscripts and additional bits and scenes that didn't make it into those daily reports:
1) The Yippie Pickup Truck (see previous page)
2) The First Violent Moment
I neglected to write on Monday that the outburst of Monday evening was not the first show of potentially violent force from the police to the protesters. The first occured about two or three hours after the Sunday march. A scheduled event entitled "Funk the War" devolved into a very loud mess. But a small deal. When I arrived it was fifty or sixty kids standing on cement steps, with two boom boxes. It sounded like one of the boxes was blaring Black Sabbath, and the other that Rage Against the Machine stuff. Combining the two sounds is enough to drive anyone nuts. The police presence was still peaking, with -and I apologize but there's no other appropriate comparison- gestapo like marching with rifles. The police were matched about two cops for every participant in "Funk the War" and this isn't counting the other cops that would loop around the groups: some on horseback, some in small vehicles, others. The faces of cops kept rotating, with different weapons and different styles.
I jot down in my notebook:
Confrontational Moment at 3:30. Boom boxes with bad music. Someone suddenly screams out 'THIS IS BULLSHIT, FUCK YOU!' Crowd cheers and starts moving slightly, as if dancing. Standing still was permitted but dancing seems to trigger a reaction equal to perceived threat. Four cops run at entire crowd, with rifles aimed and gesturing with guns, 'LAY! DOWN! EVERYONE!' - A complete over-reaction and very alarming moment. Sound of clattering metal, about twenty other rifle cops soon appear aimed at boom boxers.
The police are treating Denver like an occupied city. If it were anyLESS absurd you'd notice it MORE. But the level of police, the mass of dark blue and black is so ridiculous. You almost stop comprehending or processing it. It makes for some EXTREMELY nervous speculation, though. Just one or two dog-mad people, drunk, could ignite this entire thing. Especially if they slammed into some guy's girlfriend, kind of combustion. You can just sense the imminent blow-up.
A drunken prick, about forty-five, stupid, red-eyed and BLASTED, (wearing headphones, broken nose, beer gut, homeless maybe) keeps encircling the crowd of teens and daring them. 'DO SOMETHING YOU FUCKING PUNKS!' 'PUSSIES!' - The only thing sober about him is his eyes, which seem out for blood, in permanent locked focus. He wants a fight out here. Fortunately no one is paying him attention, but I wonder - what about later in the week when he's not the only drunk out here.
Blow-up avoided, and another loop of riot cops with rifles and plastic handcuffs patrol by. One of them kept his rifle aimed at us the entire time. Whoo boy... Only day one.
Later, thinking of Footloose, I note: COP RULES BASED ON NEAR 3pm BLOW-UP: PEOPLE ARE ONLY ALLOWED TO ASSEMBLE. BUT NO DANCING, AND SKIPPING VERY OUTLAWED. ONLY ALLOWED TO ASSEMBLE. ANY MOVEMENT IS PERCEIVED AS A THREAT. THIS IS GOING TO FALL TO PIECES ONCE THEY PUT ON BETTER MUSIC THAN RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. A GUARANTEED RIOT IF ANYONE DRIVES BY WITH MARVIN GAYE. CAN YOU IMAGINE BEING CLUBBED TO 'SEXUAL HEALING'?
Ah, Going out to coffee with some friends I'm informed of 'the Extraordinary Event Zone' - an area put in place for crowd management. I'm discussing things with a business owner who agreed to this. He's part of a group of business owners representing part of the land that will be taken over for the week by this Zone. Within the Extraordinary Event Zone "The CIA, FBI, and FEMA have complete authority" - Ominous!
1) The McCain supporters are pretending to be a group called 'NoBama' - which includes a fancy red white and blue logo, nothing like that icky teal McCain one. I approach them with 'whataya got to giveaway' (always love the stuff, see site) and they gladly offer OBAMA FOR ROCKSTAR / MCCAIN FOR PRESIDENT bumpster stickers and some other stuff. At the bottom of the box I see all the appropriate McCain merchandise and logos, along with mccain titled sales slips, and wonder why they're being so dishonest in their representation of themselves. Later I'd find out someone runs up and throws everything in the porta-toilets. "You got there just in time" I'm told, with regard to grabbing any giveaways.
2) Evening after riot I am at light rail station waiting for a friend to drive up. Swat Team member approaches me, "Good evening - From around here" Tell him used to be, but now am in Austin. "Ah, not from Massachusetts, then?" "Nope" "Well that's good - there's a car on the roof with a bunch of riot stuff in its windows, firecrackers, some vulgar banners. Got any I.D." (shit) "Sure, here ya go" "Thanks, it'll only be a minute .... Shirley, yeah can you do a check for me ... Texas, Austin, License Number...." (Just then my friends drive up. I look back with a 'yeah I know expression') But for them to be able to pick me up they have their ID's checked too. Fortunately none of us are the Massachusetts Bomber. We drive off, each with fresh 'Swat Team Tickets' - and I walk from the station to their apartment for the rest of the week, instead of wait around for a ride like tonight.
3) Trade a few Tijuana Bibles for occasional DNC access. My god, it's like nacho cheese. It'll be nice to have this throughout the week, but I'll get sick if it's the only thing I eat. Each trip there means a lost opportunity at seeing anything substantive, too. Take a note: "Avoid Pepsi Center most of the time ... a total distraction" - The other big one is Daily Kos' odd boozer, "The Big Tent" - everyone I meet from that is completely drunk or hungover from drinking. Google comped the beer. It's a trap, particularly for me. No one is writing anything there. Glad I avoided it.
1) Overhead on the train. I liked the insistence: One 50 year old man to another 50 year old man and the other guy's wife, "FIRST OF ALL I DON'T LISTEN TO ANY OF THE SPEECHES, AND SECOND OF ALL I DON'T READ ANY OF THE PAPERS -- BECAUSE IT'S ALL PROPAGANDA."
I'd see this same group (not kidding, Denver must still be that small) down by the cafes, out in line for a fundraiser. Despite all the unrest of the previous two days, the wealthy crowd spends the entire day in the market district, all doing the cheese and wine thing. Most Delegates are down here, too. An invitation-only affair for 'Vote for U.S. Senator Mark Warner' draws numerous day drinking celebrities and a line around the block. Think I see Moby drooling bubbles by a sewer grate. Am offered someone's ticket and laugh that I'm not letting them off that easy. Total waste of time, vow not to return to area of town for rest of week. Much cooler things elsewhere. Other jokes include some 'street art poster show' with a bunch of success stories, including the andre has a posse guy, who pulled a good 'will i am' with the obama poster. How come all these guys are wasting their time on the perimeter with the whole pedicure crowd is their own bummer to work out, I figure.
2) Most cops are resembling normal police in the park around protesters, bicycle patrols with normal helmets. Big change made overnight. From abuse to sober city.
3) I liked this image. Does Gawker media know?
1) Signs from the rally:
Wednesday Number 2) Winding down ... This exhausting week is winding down. They're even setting up the downtown area for 'Taste of Denver' so the park most of the protesters have been occupying will be off limits tomorrow for the big city wide potluck (good food, you buy ticket per portion) Still, there are cops in the park and about twenty teenagers there themselves. But most of the group is exhausted from the four hour march earlier today. Suddenly one guy begins screeching: "WHOO!!!!!!! LET'S GO OUT TO THE STREEEEEET!!!!!!! AND LAY DOWN SILENTLY!!!!! AND LET WHAT HAPPEN, HAPPEN!!!!! WHOO!!!!!! AND IF NOTHING HAPPENS, THEN WE'LL BE THE DUMBEST JACKASSES IN THE WORLD! WHOOOO!!!!!!!!"
He is answered, appropriately "LET'S TAKE A NAP!" ... "AND LET WHAT HAPPENS HAPPEN." ... and finally, from a third person, "THE WHOLE WORLD IS SLEEPING."
But all of these statements were valid. Everyone was terribly, unbeatably tired.
3) JELLO BIAFRA and THE RALPH NADER REVERSE CHARITY AUCTION
One of the event-type events that I was somewhat looking forward to was seeing Jello Biafra talk at the University of Denver. He was appearing with a questionably entertaining group, though - namely Cindy Sheehan and Ralph Nader - and certain groups were spending most of the days promoting the thing. And after the long march there wasn't anything going on, so I figured I'd head over to the rally. Tickets were ten dollars, which amounts to two Tijuana Bibles in trade, apparently. All week I had my own porn currency.
I walked in just as Biafra was talking, and damn that guy can still sell outraged ice to eskimo punks like no one's business. I'm joking but he's an early hero and it's great to see him during this week, especially. His eyes still firing bright, his intonation and great nasal wit. Love the motherfucker. "I know someone who abused our trust, and his NAME is BILL CLINTON!" - to many cheers. He also utters a word I've never heard but love on contact: Neandercons. It seems Mr. Biafra and I share an opinion on the priority of any new administration: Ending the drug war and getting out of the middle east. I'd add to that 'legalization of pot' but I'm also a big dreamer. Someday? Anyway, Biafra walks off, balanced on a single crutch (which surprises me, I wonder if its the result of the few attacks I remember hearing about him receiving at shows) and the announcer chirps in, "THANKS TO THE MERRIEST PUNK PRANKSTER" and then, to my dread..... is Ralph Nader's campaign manager.
Wow. Can this campaign manager guy deflate a boner, or what. What follows is one of the strangest situations I've ever encountered in a public arena, particularly for the audacity of it - but also for the length it takes to present. And also the desperation it seemed to imply for Ralph's campaign. In a little scene I can only refer to as 'The Ralph Nader Reverse Charity Auction'...
"Okay, we're going to try something now. Can you cue the lights? (Lights brighten up the entire room) We're going to try something. Is there one person. One person here who can provide them maximum legal donation to Ralph's campaign? One person? $4600 dollars? Anyone? ... We'll put a spotlight on you, even. Anyone?"
"(Huge silence) Anyone? $4600 dollars. Forty Six Hundred Dollars. Anyone. Ah! There's one. Thank you. COME ON UP. COME ON UP AND TALK ABOUT RALPH NADER! (a pause) ..."
"Yes, it's Brooke Smith from tv's Grey's Anatomy." (a plant! I say to myself and Brooke Smith says some nice things about Ralph Nader. He continues) "Okay - is there another one? Is THERE ONE? $4600 dollars. Do I hear once? Twice?"
"Forty six hundred dollars" .... He doesn't want to let go of this amount - but finally relents. "Okay, $2300 dollars. Is there someone who can offer Twenty Three Hundred Dollars. I'll give ... (he searches) I'll give this autographed Ralph Nader poster. Twenty Three Hundred Dollars? There! She's one! Bring Her Up Here. Everyone, $2300 dollars! Come on up!"
A woman comes up, shaking, terrified of the light, and struggles out a story about seeing Nader speak in the 60s. Commendable, but she also adds a fantasy element to it that she started living when she heard him talk, and I go back to this feeling like a religious revival.
"Thank you so much." .... "Is there another? Is there another at $2300? Another --- Okay.... $1500 dollars?"
I was waiting for it, and then, the touch of evangelism and guilt: "HOW MANY PEOPLE HERE ARE ALIVE TODAY BECAUSE OF RALPH NADER, OKAY HANDS UP. WHO CAN GIVE"
And this continues, over and over, lower and lower, stranger and stranger. One bite at $1500 (another speech about seeing Nader talk in a previous time) - more incentives offered, mostly signed books and posters, but the religious revival feeling really starts to overwhelm and warp.
The number drops to $750 ... to $500 ... now offering autographed DVDs. I'm wondering where the snake charmers and goat gland huxtering will begin. Just then, from across the room, a female voice, "I'M GIVING MY GOVERNMENT INCENTIVE CHECK!" to stifled cheers. But we all feel trapped by this sudden show.
"What's he going to stop at, forty cents?" I mutter. "yeah i know" a college student mutters back to me in agreement, shaking his head in confusion.
"WHO CAN DO $250? Come on, SEVERAL PEOPLE - there must be several people who can do TWOHUNDREDAND FIFTY! Bring the lights back on! (hallelujah!) yes, Who else at $250 (Jesus!) yes'ah! Last Call at 250! KEEP YOUR HANDS UP! Anyone else at ... 200! Two Hundred Dollars .."
Other than the stuff in parenthesis, I'm not making any of this up, by the way.
"100 ? WHO CAN DO A HUNDRED? one, two, three, five, seven, eight. Who else can do a hundred? This will be a gift you'll never forget. You'll go home with the best feeling." (more prosthletizing)
"$50 dollars? It's the lowest I can go. You're giving all you can give - Thank you. Who here for fifty dollars."
And that's when the horrible pit of nauseau overcame me and I had to leave. The room had transformed from a Jello Biafra speech into a tent revival for the seatbelt savior. But leaving was it's own hassle. The exit risked walking into the roving spotlight, and I didn't have a fifty on me.
Outside Inesco Field:
"$60 Parking" and "Obama - a vehicle for change" flags
Some people don't even know when they're making a joke.
And "See you all in Minneapolis"
Our best to everyone on the Gulf coast
- EP August 2008 (other things on this site)