Sunday, August 24, 2008

Denver’s First Protest Is a Mild One

Dan Frosch The Denver National Convention saw its first major protest today, and it ended peacefully with no immediate reports of arrests.

About 1,000 people organized by the group Recreate 68 gathered on the steps of Denver’s capitol on Sunday morning, carrying colorful signs and shouting anti-establishment chants that railed against such targets as corporate influences on U.S. politics, the war in Iraq and big oil.

“We’re here to call the Democrats out, to let them hear our voices,” said Laurie Hunter, 55, of Denver, who said she was an Obama supporter but still felt the protesters needed to be heard.

After listening to various speakers, including Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war protester, and a spirited performance by the rap group dead prez, the protesters set off on a permitted parade route, bound for the Pepsi Center, just a few miles away. Curious onlookers watched as the protest, led by Ron Kovic, the wheelchair-bound Vietnam Veteran and anti-war activist, snaked through downtown Denver, accompanied by bicycle police.

At one point, a small contingent of people draped in American flag T-shirts and hats shouted at the group as the protestors passed by.

One of those was Dale Parrish, 46, of LaSalle, Colo., who held a sign that said, “Freedom is not free.” Mr. Parrish said his son had done two tours of duty in Iraq, was bound for Afghanistan, and was fighting so the protesters could have their right to free speech.

Eventually the protest reached the gates of a security perimeter set up by police around the Pepsi Center.

There, as heavily armed police in riot gear and plain-clothes Secret Service agents stood in formation, the protesters stopped for about an hour — intermittently going silent and then shouting slogans.

“This is what a police state looks like,” one girl yelled at the police line.

After about an hour, however, the group began to disperse quietly.

“We’re pleased with the way things went,” said Detective John White, with the Denver Police. “We want people to know that the city is open for business, and we want to encourage people to come downtown.”

Aside from the brief standoff with police at the Pepsi Center, the march went off without incident and organizers seemed pleased with the turnout and their interaction with police.

While the numbers were not the tens of thousands some organizers had promised, Recreate 68 organizer Larry Hales said it was about “quality not quantity.”

As the protesters wandered off, one teenager mumbled to his friend, “Dude, I’m thirsty. Let’s go get some water or something.”

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