Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Denver Diaries: Day Four - Arrests, Alliances

Photo: Dueling Demos in Denver

Exposing Rove,
The 'Big Tent',

Beat Poets, Vets

And Denver Streets

By Carl Davidson
Progressives for Obama

I start the morning by heading straight for the church hosting the week-long series of panels organized by Progressive Democrats of America and The Nation magazine. It's quickly turned into an intellectual headquarters and meeting place for leftists and progressives working the election in various ways, inside and outside the Obama campaign and the Democratic party.

A large crowd is gathering early. The buzz is all about the 100 or so young people busted and dispersed the night before by encirclement by an overwhelming police force combined with tear gas. Most of the city's citizens, let alone those just here for the DNC events, are more than tired of the massive police presence on what seems like every other corner. Add to it traffic foul-ups caused by blocked streets and triple cordons around critical spots, and the most common unifying words you hear are 'unnecessary', 'police state,' and 'overkill.'

I'll wait for the dust to settle for a fuller assessment of the bust. The deeper question is why the radical youth turnout was far less than anyone's expectations-despite a myriad of other well-attended progressive happenings around town. There are probably less than 4000 at the outside, not counting the 17,000 plus locals who signed up for the ticket lottery for 'Rage Against the Machine.

But it still needs to be said, off the bat, that the radical bunch last night had fallen into some serious 'Custerism', as in General George Custer. In planning their action, they billed it, quite openly, as an effort to crash and disrupt a Dem fundraising party at one of the hotels. But they had very few allies for such an endeavor, and were vastly outnumbered by the rather well-informed cops with all their new 'Homeland Security' toys. Needless to say, the only thing that got disrupted was their own project and a little nighttime street traffic.

Back to the opening session at the church.

It began with a fascinating and disturbing speech by Don Siegelman, Alabama's Democratic governor (1999-2003), who was defeated in 2004 by Karl Rove and friends having him indicted on false charges a month before the election, then tried and convicted in rigged trials, haul off to a maximum security prison-“Alabama's worse,” he says-where he is locked up in solitary for nine months. He's finally released only after nearly 50 states attorneys general sign an appeal to a higher court not dominated by Rove cronies, where everything is dismissed.

It's a fabulous introduction to the next speaker, Greg Palast, author of 'The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.' He not only exposed the fascist machinations of Rove, he went on to offer an excellent exposure of election-stealing in general. His advice? Get ourselves well-trained so we can 'steal our votes back' and get an honest count.

Next is an 'Out of Iraq' dialog between Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Tom Hayden. Mc Dermott was an early opponent of the war, and offers insider advice of how to bring pressure to bear on your Congressman. Hayden expands on his remarks from the day before on how the left-progressives need to take issues like McCain's recent suggestions for a return to the military draft, and press it publicly in a way for the Obama campaign to take it further, to further isolate and expose McCain. Otherwise, he suggests, Obama could lose, since things are very tight.

Hayden has also been passing around sign-up sheets for Progressive for Obama's email group at every appearance. I keep an eye on the sheets, gather them up, and this morning we get another 250 or so.

At the break I decide it's time to hit the streets of Denver.

I want to check out 'The Big Tent', a site near the Pepsi center equipped for 1000 bloggers. It's literally a circus tent over a parking lot, but next to a complex of high-tech 501C3 organizations. Google is a sponsor, as are other third wave firms, and there's some serious money here-plus as a long-time 'cyberMarxist,' I want to be up on these things.

But I decide to walk the distance and take in the sights. Right off the bat, I run into dueling demos and bullhorns. Side by side are the 'Christian' theocrats denouncing abortion, gays and a long list of other violations of the Book of Leviticus, along with the 'World Can't Wait' kids with signs like 'Support Life, Smash Christian Fascism.' Both the local and tourists seem amused, and are snapping photos with their cell phones.

Further along I run into dozens of local African American button and T-Shirt sellers, all doing a brisk business with the widest variety of Obama mottos and slogans I have ever seen. Both DNC delegates and local Black workers seem to be the main customers.

Then comes a contingent of a dozen youth, dressed in black with bandanas, each carrying their own Red Flag, chanting, 'Revolution, the Only Solution! The looks range from bored to quizzical to amused-and the cell phone are snapping pictures again.

Finally I hit the 'Big Tent,' get credential and go inside. Google is offering free ice-cold smoothies in eight flavors-plus they have a machine that will put a free recharge on you cell phone or Blackberry batteries. And inside, indeed, are about 1000 bloggers working away on tables with free WiFi hookups. The implications for the future have my head spinning.

But rather than wait in line, I head for the nearest Starbucks for a large iced coffee, a favored addiction. I see two women, one whose face is familiar, so I wave her over to share the last remaining table. It turns out she's the Beat poet, Anne Waldman, old friend of Allen Ginsburg and now a professor of poetics at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetry at Naropa University, up in the mountains not too far away. We have a great time discussing Kerouac's sojourns in Denver, and she leaves me with a recording of her own poems. How's that for serendipity!

As evening arrives, I get a call offering passes to a skybox in Coors Field rented by the Council for a Livable World and VETPAC. It's aim is to offer support and interviews with about six Congressional candidates who are both Iraq vets and supporters of Obama. So I go and talk to several candidates, along with some Military Families Speak Out people. When they get done with shredding McCain's betrayal of recent veterans legislation, there's nothing left. If these guys get their message out, it will help a great deal. It's all very real, down-to-earth and a good end to the day.

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