Monday, August 25, 2008

Denver Diary, Day Two - Doing Outreach

Photo: Denver Youth Protestors

Debating Obama,
Issues, Building

Our Outreach

By Carl Davidson
Progressives for Obama

Just before 9am we’re head down Colfax though old Denver, reminding me of Kerouac’s descriptions in ‘On The Road’, seedy bars, strip joints, greasy spoons and the like. Our first stop is the Capitol rounds, where the ‘Recreate 68’ group is preparing its march. They have only about 500, and clearly aren’t going to cause a major ruckus.

We head for ‘Tent State,’ but the police super-control to the streets drives us nuts with their blockades and blocked off streets. We finally find a way in, and start setting up Right away the security team tells us ‘No stakes’ for the tents. Seems the cops think they’re weapons. My tent requires stakes, so I use them anyway to get it up, then pull most of them out. Takes us longer, but we get it done, and get our signup sheets and books out. The tent is crucial because of the heat and sunburn.

The final touch is our ‘Progressives for Obama’ sign out the tent and our Obama yard sign. This crowd has a lot of anarchist-minded youth and Green types, and we’re the only explicitly Obama tent among about 50 tents.

Right away the key tension arises. A couple of kids with green hair say ‘Obama? Progressives? What do they have to do which each other?’ Then thirty seconds later, a Black teenager on his skateboard, headed for the local skate park 50 yards away, slows down, reads our stuff, then give us a fist salute, asserting loudly, ‘Obama Rules!’

I explore the grounds. The most powerful table and display by far are Iraq Vets Against the War. About 30 are there, earnestly engaged is all kinds of discussions, with each other and passersby. Military Families Speak Out are there, with AFSC. The ‘Boots on the Ground display is going up near the entrance. I talk with the young organizers of Tent State. They’re putting up a ‘Resurrection City Free University’ teaching classes all week. Thousand of youth are lining up for free tickets to the ‘Rage Against the Machine’ concert.

We’re sharing our setup with UFPJ, so we take their leaflets on the ‘Million Doorknocks for Peace’ for base-building on Oct. 20 to everyone standing in lines for tickets. The kids ‘get it’ and snatch them up.

Then Medea Benjamin shows up with Code Pink’s filming making crew. She wants an interview and asks good questions about how the left can pressure Obama. “Stand firm against the war in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan,’ I conclude, ‘then go out a register large number of new young voters and get them to the polls, but with your own groups. Politicians pay attention to organized voters. I do several more radio, TV and press interviews throughout the day.

Tom Hayden comes by with some friends, as does Leslie Cagan. We try to figure out what happened with the first march. ‘No more than 1000,’ says Leslie. ‘t

They got to the Pepsi Center and a few tried to push further, bust didn’t do very well. Tom taks to the cops to see want they know. No major problems or arrests was the answer.

The Alliance for Real Democracy stages its marches in the afternoon from Tent State. They head to downtown Denver, but break up into four smaller groups of 100 or so, and basically engage passersby and Convention delegates into friendly discussions. “Almost every delegate I met was completely against the war,’ reported one. They return in batches, in high spirits, although everyone wishes they had greater numbers.

I stayed behind to secure the site while talking to people. Two local Chicano guys stop by. ‘Do I really think Obama will stop the war?, one asks. ‘I think he’s our best shot,’ I reply, but you never win anything at the top you haven’t organized from below. He nods agreement. “How’s your Mayor?,’ I ask, knowing he’s a progressive Latino. ‘He’s OK, but you know politicians. But what’s your goal here?” I tell him I’m trying to build organizations, independent, grassroots, they we can network, some we’re have something to pressure the White House on the war no matter who’s in it. ‘ I like that,’ he says. ‘I have some time. I can volunteer to help out. Really. Have your folks here call me’ He writes down his number and info, as I thank him.

By 5pm we hut down the tent and get ready to head to the big welcoming party at the Progressive Democratic of America/ the Nation church they taken over for a week. They having dozens of panels and workshops every day for the delegates and activists on key topics.

About 500 pack the church, all in high spirits. PDA is new and had grown rapidly in four years. Several Colorado candidates speak, as do many top figures—Jim Hightower, John Nichols, Lynn Woolsey, Norm Solomon. Tom Hayden did a powerful job stressing linking the economy and the war, and that they had not only to aim their fire at the GOP right, but at some of the center Democrats doing their work for them. He not only fired everyone up; he also had everone offer up their e-mails for ‘Progressives for Obama’ to widen out outreach. Not bad for a day’s work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for doing this. If I had enough money, I'd be there, too. But I do what I can, in my limited way. Blessings to you and what you are trying to accomplish.

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