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Sound and some fury


Protesters take on a host of issues outside the Pepsi Center - and on Denver streets. - ANTHONY LANE
  • Anthony Lane
  • Protesters take on a host of issues outside the Pepsi Center and on Denver streets.

A crew from FOX News briefly unifies anti-war protesters Sunday morning, before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Reporter Griff Jenkins and a cameraman pursue Ward Churchill, noted war critic and ousted University of Colorado professor, before a crowd of activists gathered in front of the Colorado State Capitol, and the crowd erupts with chants.

"FOX News out!" "Fuck FOX News!" and "Truth, not lies!" are among the calls as Jenkins is jostled by the crowd.

The disruption gives way to speeches and music and, finally a late morning march across Denver to the Pepsi Center, where Democratic Party delegates and elected officials will gather for most of the convention.

The crowd of a few hundred passes a cluster of heavily armed SWAT team members as they approach the concrete and metal barriers put in place to control access to the Pepsi Center.

One man seems to take the weapons as a personal affront.

"A human being doesn't have to have an automatic weapon," he says before shouting, "Shame on you" repeatedly at one of the officers.

Though the officer shows no signs of flinching, Donna Clark, an anti-war marcher from Westminster, steps in to defend him, redirecting the man's attention to her. He questions her anti-war credos as they march onward, and they debate peace-activism tactics. Another man, one of many in the crowd who's toting a video camera, records the exchange.

"I just didn't like the way he was badgering," Clark later explains. "I just felt sorry for the officer."

The exchange points to the basic situation on Denver's streets during the convention's opening days: Police and investigators are everywhere, almost everyone has something to say, and there are more hardened opinions than true debates.

In advance of the convention, fear ran high that the protests could get out of hand, particularly since a group of protesters had called themselves the Recreate 68 Alliance, recalling the riots and violence from the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Some worried about crowds of protesters numbering in the thousands.

Though protests through Tuesday see a number of arrests, most crowds only number in the dozens or hundreds, disappointing some activists.

Colorado Springs activist Eric Verlo speaks Tuesday afternoon about a march downtown the previous night that led police to block off several roads and use tear gas. Verlo says the protest took on an "oppressive" feeling as officers kept surrounding the group or showing up in front of it.

Colorado law enforcement was ready for everything. - ANTHONY LANE
  • Anthony Lane
  • Colorado law enforcement was ready for everything.

On the other hand, he says, "police handled it pretty well," with few signs of resorting unnecessarily to violence.

Though peace activists are among the more visible of protesters, they make up only a fraction of the crowds near the Capitol, down the 16th Street Mall and around entrances to the Pepsi Center.

Anti-abortion activists line many streets with lurid posters, often attracting crowds of counter-protesters. Supporters of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain strut in other parts of the city, while others parade flatly in opposition to Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama or simply to capitalism.

Two protesters, presumably for comedy, urge that birds be protected from voyeurs, or people most of us would call bird watchers. (They're organized enough to have a Web site,

Many of the anti-war activists also oppose Obama because he plans to redeploy troops to Afghanistan and has voted to continue funding combat operations in Iraq. That disappoints Helen Powers, a veteran peace activist, as she surveys the scene at Civic Center Park.

"I would like to see a large crowd of Obama supporters," she says.

Primary wounds run deep

Sweat streams down Andy Colon's face as he and hundreds of other Hillary Clinton supporters end their march next to barriers blocking access to Denver's Pepsi Center.

Though it's early Tuesday afternoon, the temperature is already close to 90 degrees, leading many marchers to seek the shade of nearby trees as speakers praise Clinton's candidacy and celebrate the 88th anniversary of women getting the right to vote.

Colon, a Clinton campaign co-chair for El Paso County, lowers the sign he helped carry as he lingers a few moments in the sun. He sways slightly but wears a grim expression.

Though some say it's time for the party to unite, Colon says it's unlikely. He blames sexism in the media and favoritism among party officials for Sen. Barack Obama securing the Democratic presidential nomination.

"I wish Hillary would start a third party," says Colon, a precinct chair and longtime active Democrat. "I started off very mellow in this thing, but now I'm becoming radical."

Andy Colon believes the Democratic party wasnt fair to - Hillary Clinton. - ANTHONY LANE
  • Anthony Lane
  • Andy Colon believes the Democratic party wasnt fair to Hillary Clinton.

Predicting how radical Clinton's most faithful supporters will become provides some of the DNC's limited drama, which explains why dozens of TV crews and reporters weave among the group.

Unlike other marches at the convention, police seem mostly at ease around the Clinton supporters, who project an aura of regret rather than bellicosity. Brenda Krause, the sole Clinton delegate from El Paso County, speaks for those who seem in a sort of limbo: She says she's still upset how Clinton was treated during the primary, but can't see herself voting for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.

People like Krause are clearly in the party's sights later on Tuesday, as Clinton prepares to take the stage. Officials pass out tall signs with "Unity" on one side and either "Hillary" or "Obama" on the reverse.

Clinton's speech seems to satisfy that hope. She draws thunderous applause both as she recounts her campaign and calls on supporters to back Obama.
Anthony Lane

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