As I sit in Common Grounds coffeehouse at 17th and Wazee, the Democratic National Convention hardly intrudes. One patron in a bright white shirt at the counter said the police were doing a good job of containing the demonstrators who wanted to make trouble, but the dyed-blond guy behind the counter was noncommittal.
It’s about 1 pm on what will be a twelve-hour day in Denver, and I’m glad to be sitting down in air conditioning. I’m also glad to be using Common Grounds’s free Wifi, which doesn’t require me to pledge my life. I tried to figure out Downtown Denver Wifi, but I couldn’t understand why I had to pay when the front page said it was free.
That was this day for you: I kept going to the wrong places and finding situations that surprised me or delighted me or scared me just a little. I got off the bus and began wandering around downtown until I ran into a most impressive fence and cops checking credentials. The closest I could get to the Pepsi Center was Speer and Auraria. An hour later, I found the beginning of the demonstration route by walking past it, asking someone where it was, and then actually reading the street sign. And when the demonstration started an hour late, the only “float” in the parade was this one. Kind of prophetic, isn’t it?
All I can say is, thank God for ReCreate 68. After they were done with the speeches by the American Indian Movement and the pleas for Leonard Peltier, they came yelling and chanting out of Civic Center Park, doing their level best to sound scary with their chants and look scary in their Guantanamo orange jumpsuits and black hoods, and went straight down the 16th Street Mall. I did wonder if they had gotten permission for that: the police presence was oppressive. I got ordered onto the sidewalk by a mounted cop, who was nice enough to thank me afterward, but even the horses were dressed in riot gear, with clear plastic blinders and things around their ankles for I don’t know what.
When we got to the Federal Building, people were shouting, “This is what a police state looks like.” And I looked around, at the hundred or so police, with ten mounted, lining Stout and 19th, compared to a few hundred demonstrators, and thought, Yeah, you’re right. The demonstrators had turned inward by then, with the “torture victims” kneeling, their hoods on, while people took pictures of them. Across the plaza another subgroup of demonstrators was talking about the Cuban Five, whom I had never heard of.
As I was leaving, I asked a young woman stripping off her orange jumpsuit where they were going next. She said, “I’m not sure. Just see what happens.”
I wanted to stick around and “see what happens,” but I was hungry. And so here I am. All morning I’ve been walking in circles in Denver during the Democratic National Convention, and it looks likely to continue for four days. But at least I got to see him.