Sunday, August 24, 2008

Broad Array of Protesters Seek Both To Influence and Infuriate

By Josh Rogin, CQ Staff Anarchists and activists, hippies and clowns, veterans, artists, immigrants, environmentalists and other enlistees in the army of the disaffected have descended on Denver for a week of demonstrations with a multitude of agendas.

This loose amalgamation of groups has two main missions for convention week. They want to bring their various messages to the attention of delegates from around the country in an effort to influence discussion within the party. And they hope to use the convention as a catalyst for reviving activist movements across the country.

Spokesmen for several of the protest groups say they have taken their inspiration from the anti-Vietnam War generation and hope to rekindle the spirit of that era. Others want to take advantage of the convention to bolster their movement’s infrastructure.

Several dozen protesters from various groups marched down Denver’s 16th Street mall Sunday, chanting slogans such as “Bush lied, people died,” and “This is what Democracy looks like.”

Most Denver residents reacted to the demonstration with a mixture of amusement and admiration, although some resented “outsiders” clogging their downtown area with noise.

“I’m here in the hope that people will take care for others the rights that we are fond of enjoying,” said Natalia Haberl, a Denver college student.

The police on scene declined to comment on the record but said that there had been no major disturbances thus far.

The protesters are aligned with groups such as United for Peace and Justice, Progressive Democrats of America, the Alliance for Real Democracy, Code Pink and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).

And while they generally support Barack Obama ’s presidential candidacy, they stress that they are coming to Denver to draw attention to their causes and don’t feel any responsibility to toe the party line.

“For us, putting the pressure on Democrats is what we feel can do the most good,” said Jared Hood, regional coordinator for IVAW. “They’re the most likely ally to help us, but if that pressure is not there, we can easily be ignored. We’re trying to put ourselves in a position where our voices are heard.”

Their tactics are expected to range from peaceful, music-filled gatherings to guerrilla street theater that is meant to shock the public consciousness. Some groups have vowed to cause disturbances at the convention, raising the specter of confrontations with the police and mass arrests.

Anti-War Protests Planned

With the ongoing Iraq war on most protesters minds, IVAW is among the protest groups that will focus their fire on the demand that Democrats do more to bring the troops home.

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