Epilogue from Denver:
Spirit of Resistance is Alive
by Brenda Norrell
September 20, 2008
DENVER -- When I went to the Democratic National Convention, to cover
the political prisoners rally and march, I didn't realize I would
witness the police provocation and arrests of a new wave of political
prisoners during the week. The peoples' crime was to be peace
activists, or merely to be present in the streets during the
convention. Lucky for me, I couldn't afford to make it to the
Republican National Convention in Minnesota. No doubt I would have
been arrested with the other media in the streets, photographing
unprovoked police brutality.
At the political prisoners rally in Denver, members of the American
Indian Movement, Black Panthers and Mexican American rights
movements, made a bold statement that the oppression, torture and
surveillance of the US government here and abroad has not silenced
Dressed in orange jumpsuits and hoods, another group brought the
spirit of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the reality of US torture,
kidnapping and murder of detainees, to the streets of Denver.
At the Republican convention, police were even more out of control
than in Denver, arresting and jailing more than 800 people, including
journalists and medics. Today, Democracy Now! announced that charges
were dropped against host Amy Goodman, among the journalists arrested
at the Republican convention.
The St. Paul City Attorney's office announced Friday it will not
prosecute Goodman and her fellow staff, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and
Nicole Salazar. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman also issued a statement
Friday that "the city will decline to prosecute misdemeanor charges
for presence at an unlawful assembly for journalists arrested during
the Republican National Convention."
The announcement came two weeks after the conclusion of the
Republican National Convention where over 40 journalists were arrested.
Goodman said, "It's good that these false charges have finally been
dropped, but we never should have been arrested to begin with. These
violent and unlawful arrests disrupted our work and had a chilling
effect on the reporting of dissent. Freedom of the press is also
about the public's right to know what is happening on their streets."
Goodman pressed for a full investigation of law enforcement activities.
Goodman was arrested while asking police to release Kouddous and
Salazar who had been violently arrested while reporting on street
demonstrations. After being handcuffed and pushed to the ground,
Goodman reiterated that she was was a credentialed reporter. Secret
Service then ripped the credential from around her neck, according to
During demonstrations on the first day of the convention police used
pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and force against
protesters and journalists. Several dozen demonstrators were
arrested, as was a photographer for the Associated Press. The YouTube
video of Goodman's arrest was viewed over 830,000 times.
Along with the journalists, medics were arrested and jailed at the
RNC, including the Portland Street Medics who served during both
conventions, working days and nights to serve the people.
Meanwhile, back in Denver, the political prisoners march and rally
did not disappoint. As the people marched from the civic center to
the federal courthouse through downtown, the crowd grew by hundreds.
Their voices rose up through the high rises. The police on the scene
at the courthouse, from Aurora, Colorado, pulled their weapons on the
people. This was followed by a legal observer yelling at the officers
to put their weapons away. Eventually the police did.
One after another, in front of the federal courthouse, the people
told how people of color in this country -- black, American Indian
and Chicano -- are targeted by police and repeatedly are the victims
of manufactured evidence.
Further, people of color are given longer prison sentences than
whites in this country, a fact verified by statistics of the ACLU. In
American Indian bordertowns, being targeted by police is called "DWI:
Driving While Indian." Those speeches can be heard at
http://www.earthcycles.net/, including Ben Carnes, Choctaw, reading a
statement written by Leonard Peltier. The voice of Mumia Abu Jamal
was heard from Death Row.
In this age of electronic surveillance, out of control police and
Nazi-style prisons for profit based on incarcerating migrants and
other people of color, the people took to the streets and let their
voices be heard. In this way, the cold, iron doors were opened for
truth and freedom.
The Recreate '68's "Freedom March and Rally for Human Rights and
Political Prisoners," speakers were: Pamela Africa of MOVE
Organization; Ben Carnes for the Leonard Peltier Defense; Rosa
Clemente, US Vice Presidential Candidate for the Green Party;
Kathleen Cleaver of The Panther Nine from San Francisco; King
Downing, National Coordinator of the ACLU's Campaign Against Racial
Profiling; Jenny Esquiveo, spokesperson for Eric McDavid, political
prisoner; Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., Prisoners of Conscience
Committee and Mumia Abu Jamal, current political prisoner recorded
from Death Row. They were joined by Cha Cha Jimenez, founder of the
Young Lords, Puerto Rican Resistance Prisoners; Ricardo Romero,
National Coordinator for the Mexican Liberation Organization; Natsu
Saito, author, activist, and human rights scholar, Guantanamo Inmates
and a spokesperson for the Cuban Five.
In this era of George Bush, secret renditions and Abu Ghraib, the
spirit of resistance lives.
Self-doubts paralyze activists
By Susan Greene
Denver Post Columnist
Article Last Updated: 09/21/2008
Mark Cohen is in a funk.
It was the Sunday before the Democratic National Convention during an
anti-war rally the veteran activist had spent 18 months organizing.
From the steps of the state Capitol, he was discouraged to see only
a few hundred protesters.
Cohen co-founder of the group Recreate 68 had cut his teeth
decrying the Vietnam War and always believed in the power of taking
to the streets.
Now he's not so sure.
"Because we're the home-field activists, we felt we had to organize a
march for the DNC or else people would say Denver doesn't care about
the war," he said. "But mass marches don't work any more. Politicians
don't perceive any kind of threat from our actions."
Glenn Spagnuolo, Recreate 68's louder-mouthed co-founder, voiced his
own angst in his post-mortem:
"In the end, what did we accomplish? Not much. Do I feel like we
influenced the Democratic Party at all? No. . . . I'm done with that
type of protest."
The self-doubts of two of Denver's best-known protesters may be met
with smugness by city officials, Barack Obama supporters and
law-and-order ideologues irked by lefty dissent however anemic in August.
Even activists are pointing fingers.
Many blame the less militant among them for cowering in the face of
police overpresence or wimping out for fear of eroding support for Obama.
Some blame a sense of powerlessness about a war that most Americans
oppose. Some point to apathy in a town that got more worked up over a
Rockies playoff game last fall than the deaths of 4,100 soldiers.
Others cite infighting in the activist community, faulting Cohen and
Spagnuolo for harkening back to protests in Chicago in 1968 rather
than pushing a more current agenda. After all, some note, the
immigrant-rights movement managed to turn out 75,000 Denverites on a
workday in 2006.
But all that misses the point.
In a time of war and economic tumult, when gas prices, foreclosures
and joblessness are rising, it seems an odd time for so many in
Denver's activist left to be paralyzed by self-doubt. Frustrated
peaceniks, anarchists and other liberals who have given up on the
Democrats and failed to build up a viable third party are struggling
with where to take their activism.
"Since the DNC I keep wondering why wasn't it better, what did we do
wrong, what do we do next?" said Cohen, 62.
Even young activists are questioning their future on the streets.
"At the end of the day, the only people who heard us were the riot
cops. We need to figure out a different formula, something that's
more inspiring to people," said 22-year-old Recreate 68 leader Carlo
Garcia, one of roughly 150 protesters arrested in August.
This week marks the midway between the convention and the perennial
uprising against Italian-Americans' Columbus Day parade in Denver.
While the American Indian Movement meets today to set its plans for
October, some core activists who back the group say enthusiasm for a
mass protest is lower than ever. There are rumblings about a small,
direct action blocking the parade, or even skipping a protest.
"The question is whether it's worth our time, energy and resources to
scream at a blind and deaf infrastructure," said AIM leader Glenn Morris.
"But let me be clear," he added. "Surrender is not one of our options."
Susan Greene writes Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Reach her at
303-954-1989 or firstname.lastname@example.org