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Stateside: Democratic Convention Day 3, Part Two

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Democratic Convention Day 3, Part Two

As I headed towards the security perimeter of the Pepsi Center, I was surprised to see a phalange of riot police controlling the gap in the security fence that functioned as an exit. “If you want to leave this way, you’d better be quick,” one said. As serendipity would have it, I’d chosen to leave just as an antiwar protest was approaching.

Led by Iraq Veterans Against the War and the band Rage Against the Machine, about 3,000 protestors had just left a concert organized by It took 12 minutes for all of them to pass by me. Inside the perimeter a number of mounted police, their horses wearing Perspex eye-shields to protect them from tear gas proceeded towards the area where the protest would be taking place. Outside the perimeter fence, about a city block’s distance from where the delegates enter.

The protest group’s marshals urged people not to get into an altercation with the police. “The action is up front with the veterans,” one said, “not here.”

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At the ready a few blocks distance from the Pepsi Center, this “emergency rescue” vehicle was a popular spot for people to have their photos taken. The young man in the Obama T-shirt is giving the peace sign. A passerby called out, “There’s no riot here. Why are you wearing that silly gear?”

Time and again, I’d see people having their photos taken with the riot police stationed all over Downtown Denver or giving them cold drinks, saying “Thank you, you’re doing a good job.” The amount of gear they wear is phenomenal, and it’s all black, which must add to the heatstroke factor. The ones stationed in Starbucks coffee shops have it the easiest.

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As I walked further towards where I thought I might get a cab to the University of Denver rally for the Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez presidential ticket, traffic came to a standstill as hundreds of cyclists wove in and out shouting that they were taking back the streets. Many of them were also protesting the war in Iraq along with the heavy security presence in the city.

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The Nader Campaign has had a presence in Denver since at least the weekend, when this inflatable Liberty Bell (above) was set up opposite the State Capitol. Wednesday night’s Super Rally featured speakers like Sean Penn and Cindy Sheehan and was carried live on FreeSpeechTV, which is also streaming live coverage of events taking place at the DNC on its Crashing the Party website. I never did make it to the rally, more’s the pity.

Some time just after 7 pm, headed towards the bus stop home, I passed the back entrance of one wing of the Westin Hotel. A little girl in the back seat of a red car was looking on with delight as a uniformed security officer searched through the boot (trunk) of the car, opening bags to check their contents. A plainclothes Secret Service agent stood nearby watching that the job was done properly. At the front of that building, on the street between the two wings, a crowd had gathered opposite the main Westin entrance. Anti-abortion activists carrying huge 6x6 foot photos of aborted fetuses stood directly opposite the glass doors. Word on the street was that Obama himself was about to exit the building.

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I waited a while, but thought it highly unlikely he’d just walk out the front door even if there were no protestors there. Sure enough, just as I was stepping onto my bus at the street corner where it had been forced to wait for several minutes, an entourage swept up out of the underground parking garage and whoever it was headed away. Obama? Maybe. He made a surprise appearance later in the evening at the Pepsi Center at the close of his Veep’s speech.

Talk about Chief Stealing Thunder!



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