For over 20 years I have researched and written about the need for and mechanisms of social change. The Democratic National Convention in Denver brings back various visions and views of the 1968 convention in Chicago. For perspective, I was 16 and living an hour from downtown Chicago when things started happening. Several friends and I were stopped on the expressway from entering the downtown area. We went home and missed the action. I am also going to miss this years conventions because I have no funds and must do my thing here in North Carolina.
I have written earlier about the massive social movement that Obama has catalyzed. This article brings you the latest in plans, politics and philosophy from the social activists . I urge anyone who is close by to join the cause of taking back our country. Denver (and Minneapolis next week) are both among our most tolerant and progressive cities – visited each a few times. Also read about Denver’s lax laws on smoking marijuana. It is our country and we must make sure that Obama-Biden fulfill our needs and their promises!! The whole world will truly be watching – just as they were in 1968.
Graham Nash: ‘Please come to Denver’
From the Chicago Tribune.
After the riotous Democratic National Convention in Chicago 40 years ago, Graham Nash’s song, Chicago, became a rallying call for an anti-war generation: “Won’t you please come to Chicago?” Nash first sang in 1971. “We can change the world, rearrange the world.” On the 40th anniversary, with the Democrats staging a mile-high presidential nominating convention in Denver this summer, and anti-war fervor in the air again, Nash has licensed the song anew to a Colorado band singing the anthem with one key word changed: “Won’t you please come up to Denver?”
On a recent tour-stop in Denver, on June 26, those troubadours of the 60’s, Crosby, Stills and Nash, played the “Denver” version to a packed house and dedicated the song to Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who was, as they say, in the house. Colorada activists saw in this performance “an opportunity to use this song as a rallying cry for the 2008 DNC in Denver,” a spokeswoman for a group organizing a “Counter-Convention” in Denver reports.
“With Graham Nash’s permission, a local Colorado band called Freedom Kage was enlisted to re-record the song. They changed only the words from “Won’t you please come to Chicago?” to “Won’t you please come up to Denver?” The governor’s office has had no comment on its feelings about the suggestion implicit in this revision – that somehow Denver could become the staging ground for a renewed anti-war demonstration reminiscent of Chicago ’68 — organizers of the counter-event say.
“Even though all the protest groups involved have pledged to act in a non-violent manner,” notes Laura Kriho, a Chicago native living in Colorado and serving as spokeswoman for a “Come up to Denver” campaign, “the city is spending up to $18 million on security equipment and non-lethal weapons for the DNC, raising fears that the law enforcement is looking for trouble, as they were at the 1968 DNC. I hope that activists around the country respond to the song and come up to Denver in August. As in 1968, we need massive numbers of participants to make an impact.”
The “Come Up to Denver” campaign is encouraging “progressive social change groups” to come to Denver for the Aug. 24-28 party convention and take part in a “DNC Counter-Convention. “There will be music, art, speakers, workshops, marches, rallies and networking opportunities for activists from around the country to plan “what’s next” after the 2008 general election,” Kriho notes. “Environmental, peace, social justice, immigrant rights, human rights and the economy are just some of the issues that will be discussed at the Denver Counter-Convention.
The Come Up to Denver Campaign and Recreate68 would like to invite you to “Come Up to Denver” for the Democratic National Counter-Convention and Downtown Festival of Democracy. As you know, the DNC will be in Denver from Aug. 24-28, 2008. In the spirit of true democracy, we are inviting all groups advocating progressive social change to participate in the Downtown Festival of Democracy in Civic Center Park. This festival is being organized by Recreate68, an umbrella organization that has obtained permits for the main Downtown Denver parks for that week. The Democrats are coming to Downtown Denver, and we’re going to party with them!
The Downtown Festival of Democracy will run all week and includes free music, art, speakers, workshops, information tables, marches, rallies and networking opportunities for activists from around the country to plan “what’s next” after the 2008 General Election. Environmental, peace, social justice, immigrant rights, human rights and the economy are just some of the issues that will be featured at the Festival. The Festival of Democracy will take place at various locations during same days as the Democratic National Convention. The times and locations of all the events, marches and actions are available online at: http://www.comeuptodenver.org/calendar/
From the following news story you can see that marijuana activism and smoking will be high in Denver for the DNC. Unless the feds get involved, city cops are strongly discouraged from hastling people for simply smoking or possessing pot. Seems like the crowd needs to keep the feds busy with their theater and flexibility. For proof I have included a story from the awesome marijuana legalization event held on 4-20 this year. Read how hip, high and happy the people are in the mile-high city.
Marijuana event draws thousands to Denver’s Civic Center Park
April 21, 2008 – Face The State Staff Report
DENVER – In Civic Center Park Sunday, more than 5,000 people came together to call for marijuana legalization. But while the annual event—part party and part protest—has in the past been defined by dozens of arrests, this year’s event saw few, with organizers emphasizing a larger message of freedom.
“When we talk about marijuana legalization, we shouldn’t just be talking about pot,” said Denver attorney Robert Corry. “At today’s event, there was a real emphasis on the fact that everyone should be concerned about the fact that we’re wasting incredible amount of public resources on enforcing the prohibition of a peaceful, organic substance.”
Corry represented the event’s organizers and helped them secure a park permit, a first for supporters who had traditionally held only an impromptu rally at the park. While attendance was up significantly over last year’s estimated 800 attendees, just 10 marijuana citations were issued. At last year’s event, 78 people were cited for marijuana smoking.
Under an ordinance passed last November by Denver voters, enforcement of marijuana prohibition was to become the city’s lowest law enforcement priority. The passage came on the heels of a successful 2006 initiative, which saw Denver become the first U.S. city to legalize small amounts of marijuana for adult usage. In 2000, Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment allowing for medicinal marijuana use upon a doctor’s recommendation.
Tom Hayden: The New Left leader from four decades ago thinks Denver should be skeptical of federal authorities’ warnings about violent protest.
By M.E. Sprengelmeyer – August 8, 2008 – Rocky Mountain News
CULVER CITY, Calif. — On a steamy spring day, in a cramped office that hot air can’t escape, the archetypal child of the ’60s does something truly radical. He wears a necktie. This is not the hairy, scary leader of the New Left who had Chicago locking up its daughters for the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It’s a clean-cut Tom Hayden, retired California state senator, prolific writer, blogger and sage to a whole new generation of street activists. …
Forty years after he helped lead the anti-war protests that ended in violent confrontations outside the ’68 convention, he just put out a new book, Voices of the Chicago Eight, about the circus-like conspiracy trial for protest organizers and the consequences of attempts to come down hard on dissent. He offers regular takes to Huffington Post readers and was an early member of the group Progressives for Obama. He lectures on college campuses and offers an updated version of the Port Huron Statement — the 1962 manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society that challenged young people to boldly venture into “participatory democracy.”
And behind the scenes, Hayden closely monitors protest plans for the upcoming Democratic and Republican national conventions, advises organizers and warns that authorities appear to be falling into a predictable pattern of hype and overreaction. “I think that Denver officials would be well-advised not to believe everything that the FBI warns them about,” Hayden says. “That’s how things can get out of hand, due to fabricated, exaggerated projections about violence or protest.” As the convention approaches, federal dollars pour into the security effort and law enforcement agencies flex muscle with high-profile exercises.
“They don’t learn,” Hayden laments. “What you saw in 2000 was the claim that 75,000 anarchists were descending, the secret funding of permanent police equipment, the denial of permits for protesters. You saw the same thing in 2004. You will see the same thing in 2008.” “So they have their view,” Hayden says of security planners. “They’ve learned nothing from 1968.” As demonstrators get ready for Denver 2008, 40-year-old memories are front and center. One coalition operates under the “Re-create 68” banner, conjuring images of the street clashes that overshadowed the Democratic Convention itself, galvanizing the anti-Vietnam War effort and undermining Democrats’ hopes in that long-ago fall. But Hayden was there in 1968. …
“I planned for multiple scenarios, not knowing which one would play out,” he says, sitting in the cramped office while his research assistant continues working nearby. “But certainly, after the murder of Kennedy, coming on the murder of King, to me it was in the air that we were going to be busted and face serious harm unless we surrendered and left the city and simply went along with the plan . . . just go along with our own disappearance.” They didn’t, even though they knew — from personal contacts — that the FBI was tracking their every move, around the clock. …
The city rejected permits for the Youth International Party — the so-called “Yippies” led by the late Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman — to hold a massive “Festival of Life” concert. Some thought permits would come through at the last minute — a way of giving a nod to free expression only after turnout had been dampened. But that didn’t happen, either. Hayden says Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was “hoodwinked” into believing that “thousands of hairy Yippies were going to have sex in public while drinking from the LSD-laden waters of Lake Michigan. They actually believed that. And this sex in the parks on acid would occur at roughly the same moment that black revolutionaries would storm the convention with guns.”
So the stage was set for constant confrontations, games of cat and mouse between police and protesters, and then bloody clashes on television, just as Democrats also were struggling to show they could maintain order among squabbling delegates inside the convention hall. It culminated on Aug. 28, when Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota was to accept the presidential nomination. That afternoon, while delegates waged a contentious debate over Vietnam War planks in the party’s platform, police allowed a “legal” anti-war rally at Grant Park. Things broke loose after a shirtless teenager climbed a flagpole, ostensibly to turn the flag upside down as a distress symbol. Police swooped in to make an arrest, the crowd surged and some threw stones or dirt clods at a police car, and the scene quickly deteriorated. Thousands of police, soldiers and National Guardsmen surrounded the area. Calm was restored, but by twilight, many protesters were more determined to make unsanctioned parades to reach the convention site or the Hilton hotel, where delegates were staying. …
More likely, he predicted, were smaller demonstrations to keep up the pressure for Democrats in Denver to take tougher anti-war stands, with more fierce protests against the “war-makers” at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. By early July, however, Hayden said he was growing concerned about the city’s posture toward protesters and the worst-case scenario security exercises, with black helicopters roaring through the downtown skyline.
The ACLU and protest organizers went to court challenging the location of a so-called free-speech zone on the far edge of a parking lot. Planners of “Tent State University,” who hoped to use City Park to house tens of thousands of anti-war activists, were told they would have to clear the park at 11 each night. The ban on camping and curfew enforcement raises the specter of the nightly crackdowns at Lincoln and Grant parks in Chicago ’68. “I do think they are playing around unnecessarily with the rights of protesters to protest,” Hayden said in a follow-up interview. “I don’t know how the negotiations will come out, but you know, naming something a protest zone but then not allowing it to be heard or seen, it’s a mockery of the First Amendment. Most importantly, it’s not necessary.
“It does seem to me there’s a legitimate right to protest at stake,” he said. “I don’t think the protests will be very large if Obama is the nominee. I don’t see the point in interfering with them . . . It’s particularly crazy because most of the delegates at the Democratic convention have been in many demonstrations themselves.” The security exercises, with helicopters buzzing the city, reminded Hayden of something out of the movie Dr. Strangelove.
“The implication is very unsettling,” he said. “The message was that the people coming to protest deserve this kind of repression if they get out of hand . . . They’re just trying to scare the public into justifying more tax dollars for a false sense of security — more gadgets for the police department.” He said people don’t realize that in Chicago, the initial protests were rather lightly attended, with about 1,500 people in the parks. But the numbers swelled to an estimated 10,000, in part as a reaction to the police crackdowns, Hayden says. “If they had given us permits, I doubt there would have been much confrontation at all,” he says. “What caused the rioting in the streets was the lack of permits and the lack of a place to stay. Too much order creates disorder is the way I’ve always put it.” …
“I think it’s a remarkable peace movement,” he says. “You don’t have the draft. You have one-fifteenth of the American casualties now that you had at this point during Vietnam. The establishment is doing everything it can to keep this war from impacting the American people. And yet, people have seen through it.” The public at large turned against the Iraq war by the end of 2004, he says, “which I think means the ghosts of ’68 are still with us. People know a quagmire when they see one.”
The Come Up to Denver Coalition is a group of diverse people that have come together to promote the DNC Counter-Convention, a networking opportunity for activists around the country. In 1968, most people in the U.S. wanted to End the War in Vietnam. United by musicians such as Crosby, Stills & Nash, and radicals like the Yippies, they heeded the call to “Come to Chicago” for the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Anti-war demonstrators came to Chicago in massive numbers from both coasts to call for an end to the war. Many remember the violence at the Convention. The protesters were peaceful. The official report blamed the violence on the police, calling it a “Police Riot”. The anti-war demonstrators wanted nothing but peace – Then and Now!!
In 2008, we need to recreate what the People made happen in 1968. In 1968, the People said NO to war. In 2008, the People can do it again! This is your CALL TO ACTION!!! Come Up to Denver!!! Show the Democrats that we will not remain silent while they continue to support the War. Old and young, Left and right, East and west, Black and white. We can change the world, but we need YOU!
The bulwark against tyranny is dissent. Open opposition, the right to challenge those in power, is a mainstay of any healthy democracy. The Democratic and Republican conventions will test the commitment of the two dominant U.S. political parties to the cherished tradition of dissent. Things are not looking good. Denver’s CBS4 News just reported that the city is planning on jailing arrested Democratic convention protesters at a warehouse with barbed-wire-topped cages and signs warning of the threat of stun gun use. Meanwhile, a federal judge has ruled that a designated protest area is legal, despite claims that protesters will be too far from the Democratic delegates to be heard.
The full spectrum of police and military will also be on hand at the Democratic convention in Denver, many of these units coordinated by a “fusion center.” These centers are springing up around the country as an outgrowth of the post-9/11 national-security system. Erin Rosa of the online Colorado Independent recently published a report on the Denver fusion center, which will be sharing information with the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the U.S. Northern Command. The center is set up to gather and distribute “intelligence” about “suspicious activities,” which, Rosa points out, “can include taking pictures or taking notes. The definition is very broad.” …
After Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee, the protest coalition in Denver splintered, as many were motivated originally by the anticipated nomination of the more hawkish Hillary Clinton. An anarchist group, Unconventional Denver, actually offered to call off its protests if Denver would redirect the $50-million federal grant it is receiving for security to “reinvest their police budget toward real community security: new elementary schools; health care for the uninsured; providing clean, renewable energy.” The plea has not been answered. The city, meanwhile, is stocking up on “less-lethal” pepper-ball rifles and has set aside a space for permitted protesting that some are referring to as the “Freedom Cage.” …
For now, the eyes of the world are on the Beijing Olympics. Sportswriter Dave Zirin is reporting on the suppression of protests that are occurring there. He has an interesting perspective, as he is a member of the anti-death-penalty group infiltrated in Maryland. He told me, “Our taxpayer dollars went to pay people to infiltrate and take notes on our meetings, and it’s absolutely enraging … a lot of this Homeland Security funding is an absolute sham … it’s being used to actually crush dissent, not to keep us safer in any real way.” The lack of freedom of speech in China is getting a little attention in the news. But what about the crackdown on dissent here at home? Dissent is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. There is no more important time than now.
Ten Mutual Assurances Between Groups And OrganizationsPlanning DNC Related Activities:
We are committed to resisting and overturning the system of violence inflicted daily on the people of this country and the world, and against the natural environment, by political and corporate power in the pursuit of profit. We are resolved that our group will not instigate violence against human beings as a means to end this system of violence and injustice. However, we recognize the right of the people to self-defense and community defense.
- To publicly support rights of free speech, the right to organize, and the right to dissent for all.
- To maintain solidarity with, and respect the guidelines of, all permitted activities, recognizing that there are many individuals who seek a safe and peaceful protest.
- To support and participate in efforts to assure civil liberties for everyone in Denver, including the right to organize civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action without that organizing being criminalized or disrupted.
- To speak out against any preemptive arrests, raids on activists spaces, or attacks on independent journalists and other media.
- To be conscious of and speak out against police targeting and differential treatment of people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, accent, or appearance.
- Not to turn people over to the police, or share information with the police about other groups.
- Not to publicly criticize the tactics used by other parts of our movement or cooperate with media efforts to be divisive or portray good protester/bad protester.
- To publicly condemn police repression and brutality.
- To be conscious that if violence or property destruction does occur, we will do what we can to help prevent it from being blown out of proportion and dominating the media coverage.
- To remember that, when all is said and done, our greatest victory will be an activist community with a renewed sense of strength and unity.
“Make fun, not war!” That’s the motto of a group calling themselves Yippies Colorado. The Yippies are touting “peace bats”, as a kinder, gentler weapon that could be a non-violent alternative for police, protesters, delegates and counter-delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Peace Bats are 42″ inflatable baseball bats, decorated in patriotic red, white and blue with stars and stripes, and peace signs, of course. They are kids’ toys, but could prove very useful at the Democratic National Convention.
Peace bats could be used as a non-violent alternative for police who want to “recreate ’68” and beat hippie’s heads like they did in Chicago. If the police used peace bats instead of billy clubs, no one would get hurt and the laughter and merriment that would ensue would be sure to cripple any thoughts of real violence on both sides. Peace bats could also be used as a non-violent alternative to the anarchist and militant protest groups that are threatening to disrupt the DNC.
Why smash the window of a Starbucks or Walmart and risk hurting somebody, when you can go at it with a peace bat all day? Create smiles, not tears! Peace bats are a symbol for how the majority of the DNC protest groups plan to act during the Convention. Most activists want peaceful, nonviolent protests where nobody gets hurt. Can anyone get hurt with a peace bat? Of course not, since it is like getting hit with air! Unless you die of laughter of course.
On the other hand, the Denver Police Department, Secret Service, National Guard and thousands of other local and federal law enforcement officers will be armed with rifles, tasers, tear gas, pepper bullets, rubber bullets, billy clubs, high power microwave weapons, sonic weapons and armed Blackhawk helicopters. Real weapons that cause real damage. They may be non-lethal, but they don’t sound like a lot of fun!
If real violence breaks out at the DNC, who will be to blame? Protesters with peace bats or police with automatic rifles? If comedy breaks out at the DNC, only Yippies can be blamed! “The peace bat allows you to make your point without making a mark,” says Private Lee Pat McGroin, national Yippie trendmonger for the Western Region. “Laughter is the best defense,” says Biff Debris, a local Yippie artist.
Yippie Pieman Aron Kay from Brooklyn, NY, who became infamous in the 1970’s for throwing pies in the faces of political figures and celebrities, calls the DNC a “charade”. Pieman says, “Once again, the rich orgy of affluence tries to give us another snow job. It’s the same regurgitated circus that we get every four years, a liberal façade called ‘Yippie Presents: America Up for Grabs.’ No matter what, we still have to take on the bad clowns and the bad circus being perpetrated by corporate cartel. Are we Obamanable or will we suffer under four years of Elmer Fudd McCain?”
At some point during the upcoming Republican National Convention, delegates will look out the windows of the Xcel Energy Center, or down from swank hotels and grand old after-parties, and there, past the security fences and the legions of taser-toting police and private security guards, they will see the other America spilling into the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota.
That is, if the Republicans even make it that far. From September 1-4, the RNC will be besieged by a panoply of protesters — including antiwar activists, Iraq War veterans, Hurricane Katrina survivors, immigrant workers, labor unionists, anarchists, environmentalists, feminists and queers. At the frontlines will be America’s young dissidents who will walk out of class, lock down intersections and dance in the streets to “Funk the War.”
The view from Denver at the Democratic National Convention at the end of August will look a little different. That’s because in the age of Obama many of these same movements, so united against the RNC, are deeply conflicted over the Democrats and the party system itself — perhaps none more so than the youth movement. At issue, say organizers across the country, is not only their relationship to the Obama campaign and the presidential elections but the very meaning of democracy in 2008. Is true democracy possible inside the party system and on the campaign trail? Or is democracy to be found and made by the people in the streets outside? Will the two ever meet?
Not if the conventioneers have their way. Uncredentialed activists are to be fenced off and kept away from the Pepsi Center in Denver by parking lots the size of football fields. The protesters descending on the RNC will be cordoned off into designated “free speech zones,” guarded by thousands of police officers to the tune of $50 million at this “National Special Security Event.”
The streets will also be haunted by the ghosts of conventions past, from the cracking of skulls at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago to the pre-emptive arrest and detention of nearly 2,000 protesters at the 2004 Republican convention in New York City. Like their predecessors outside those arenas, this year’s dissidents have come to see the party conventions, advertised as the ultimate showcases of American democracy, as exhibits A and B of the nation’s deficit of democracy instead. And they cast themselves in opposition, as the keepers of the flame.
The dissent at the Democratic National Convention — though less “mass” than at the RNC, especially after the recent withdrawal of some national organizers — is set to feature events like an open-air Festival of Democracy, a Restoring Democracy Parade and a base camp with free housing and medical care, organized by groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Alliance for Real Democracy, the Recreate ’68 Alliance and the immigrant coalition the We Are America DNC Alliance.
Activists with these groups report getting the critical questions from their friends and peers about plans to protest Denver: “Especially now, with a candidate who talks a lot about hope and change, people talk about, ‘Why do you need to protest?’ ” says Zoe Williams, a local organizer with Code Pink: Women for Peace and a spokesperson for the Alliance for Real Democracy. Her answer? “I think that we need to define what hope and change are. We need to decide what that means to us as a people.” ….
Madeline Gardner, an activist from the Twin Cities who now organizes with the Energy Action Coalition, sees a political opening for movements like hers: “The story Obama tells, about how we’re gonna change this world by regular people taking action,” she says, “creates more space for social movement organizing in a way we haven’t had since the ’60s. I would like to see the conventions and the protests around them take full advantage of that opportunity.” That sentiment is shared by Joshua Kahn Russell, an organizer with the Rainforest Action Network in the Bay Area who feels that the youth movement should “use both conventions to put forward a narrative that we are starting a new chapter in American history. … Our job is to be part of that progressive wave and to pull it to the left as much as we can.” …
Most determined of all are the anarchists and anti-authoritarians, as many of the youth activists describe themselves, including two of the most active groups preparing to crash the conventions: the RNC Welcoming Committee and the Unconventional Action network. Unconventional Denver organizer Clayton Dewey acknowledges that “the candidacy of Obama is a reflection of the public’s desire for something different.” But as an anarchist, he explains, “we believe that despite the rhetoric Obama uses, genuine change will always come from the bottom up, and that means countering the system as a whole.”
“An anti-authoritarian vibe is what’s going on,” says Carina Souflee, an activist with Anarchist People of Color and the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) at the University of Texas-Austin, who was radicalized by the immigration protests and is planning to be in the streets at the RNC. “People have learned that a top-down approach to things doesn’t work.” To young radicals like Souflee and Dewey, the question remains one of democracy, and to them, democracy has very little to do with the 2008 presidential elections. “What we have in common is a desire to break the spell that elections have over the US left,” says a member of the RNC Welcoming Committee who goes by the pseudonym ‘Ann O’Nymity.’ “Our message is one of direct participation in democracy, bypassing corrupt politicians who don’t represent us but instead further corporate interests.” …
The same story can be heard over at the DNC protest headquarters. “We’re just hoping that the Denver police don’t recreate the violence that happened in Chicago [in ’68],” says Glenn Spagnuolo of the Recreate ’68 Alliance, “since they’re the only ones capable of doing that.”
The group’s call to “Recreate ’68” at the 2008 DNC has become a point of contention all its own, even among activists born decades after 1968 and bred amid a new world order. The collective memory of ’68 — not just of Chicago, but of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, of Black Power and women’s liberation and youth revolts worldwide — persists among this generation. But while some in the youth movement may look back on ’68 as a usable past, as a memory of mass democracy they can mobilize and learn from, few activists see it as a moment to recreate. “It provides inspiration and an example of what can be possible,” says Arya Zahedi of New York City SDS. “But it can also prove a disservice. If we just ‘recreate ’68,’ we will be destined to also recreate its problems.” …
For many, this push begins by showing ordinary people, and especially young, newly politicized people, their own power beyond Election Day. “We really need to find a way to engage the people who are excited, and really do think that Obama’s gonna change something,” says DC SDS’s Miller. “We have to do a lot of popular education to say that it isn’t politicians who make real change, it’s the movements that politicians have to follow.”