By Brenda Norrell
DENVER -- If you like chaos, you should be in the streets of Denver. If you like being surrounded by squads of riot police with nothing to do but irritate people, you should definitely be in Denver. If you like downtown shop owners saying, "Our restrooms are out of order," and "We turned the Wi-Fi off for the week," you should really be in Denver.
I don't know how anyone else's day went, but for me, I spent eight hours accomplishing nothing. First, there's the downtown Kinkos, the worst in the nation. You can pay $30 for what should cost $5 to accomplish because the computers are pitiful. It has been that way for years.
While many shop owners just handled the chaos this way: "Our restrooms are broken," (Kinkos) or "We turned off the Wi-Fi for the week," (Paradise Bakery)" on down the street, Barnes and Nobles tried another approach. It was so hot in there that babies were sweating.
Finally I gave up and sat in a coffee shop. Across the street, the anti-abortion crowd had huge posters of fetuses. The restaurant owners were very upset because people really couldn't eat looking at these. There seemed to be lots of drama, as police and news reporters kept rushing back and forth as confrontations came and went. But one thing was clear, these protesters, mostly white Christians from small towns, were treated very different by Denver's riot police, than the peaceful marchers for political prisoners on Monday.
For people of color, the police drew their weapons. The alternative crowd wasn't treated well either. For the peaceful Food Not Bombs group, there was a huge buildup of police delivering intimidation and repression. Finally, for all the alternative protesters near the Civic Center there was a huge arrest sweep on Monday night. Medics, documentary filmmakers, and reporters said they were detained for one and one half-hours during the roundup.
Apparently Denver police felt Monday's crowd was entirely too peaceful and arrests were in order. There was no other way to explain the big roundup and arrests Monday night. Police sprayed people with pepper spray and shot pepper bullets at them. As for the bizarre single file procession of dozens of police through the Food Not Bombs dinner of rice and lentils, there's no way to explain that.
Still, there are great handmade signs all over Denver. However, there's little indication that the "haves" at the Democratic National Convention are paying any attention to the people in the streets. The people taking to the streets of Denver have come from all over America. Anyone who has a cause is here. Two signs today read, "911 was an inside job," and "Clean coal spending $2 million on convention." On the lighter side, here's a few great signs from the streets: "Give everyone everything," "Get rid of government everything," and "Free hugs."
Anyway, back to today. As I was leaving the Civic Center area, I heard from a young woman photographer who had witnessed one of the police attacks. She said one person was simply photographing his friend being arrested. The police told him to halt, so he dropped the camera and put his hands in the air. The young man taking photos was then tackled by three riot police and arrested. His crime was taking a photo. She also filled me in on the fenced dog cages being used as jails during the convention.
The locals call it after their river, "Guantanamo on the Platte."
(PHOTO: Denver riot police ready for the big sweep on Monday. Apparently the people were too peaceful, as the guy sleeping on the grass demonstrates. The photo was taken shortly before the sweep and arrests in the Civic Center area on Monday evening. Photo Brenda Norrell)