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I missed this from the Denver Post last week because I don’t subscribe to any Colorado newspapers (I have no bird cages and thus no use for the local news), but I saw a post about it in my new favorite blog, No Blood for Hubris (another Buddhist blogger – yay! plus, gotta love the title). It’s the account of a protester who was arrested last week by the Denver PD for exercising his first amendment rights. A quick exerpt:

“The first thing I really noticed was at Civic Center Park when I was in the ‘Food Not Bombs’ area. The police seemed to be ready for conflict. They walked through the ‘Food Not Bombs’ crowd, which was a peaceful group, holding their weapons out and looking at people, really intensely, trying to intimidate everyone. It made us all a little worried.

“I was planning to march with the group that night. We all had different reasons for being there. I was marching to make people aware that they should be worried about our civil rights being stripped systematically right now, and show people that habeas corpus is six feet under. I just think the time we live in has so many deep-rooted problems that I don’t understand how people can NOT protest. I’d never been arrested before, and I have no criminal record or significant run-ins with the law.

“Everything happened really fast. We knew there were police behind us, and that presence was growing larger, with more police, but then suddenly there were police in front of us at the other end of the block. Shortly after that, the police encircled us. A lot of people were able to escape before they closed the circle, but the rest of us were inside, along with a journalist from Brooklyn, and a woman who started writing on her laptop about what was happening, and some photographers. There were many people who weren’t protesters, just citizens, who were in the encircled group.

“We moved to the sidewalk – a few people stayed in the street – because we didn’t want a confrontation, but it didn’t matter.

“People started pleading: ‘Let me go,’ ‘I want to go home.’ The police started using the pepper spray. Some of the police on horses were whacking people with their batons. I was told later that the police were telling us to disperse, but I didn’t hear them say that. And where would we go? The police were all around us, not letting us leave.

So it’s not just the St. Paul police, though obviously the SPPD have been much more…what’s the word I’m looking for…brownshirt-ish?

It’s a curious thing, though.

In St. Paul, the police seem to be sweeping up everyone who looks at them cross-eyed, without regard for group affiliation, and it looks like the Denver PD had its moments with the lefty-leaning protesters, as well.

But both days that I was in downtown Denver during the convention, I saw groups protesting against gays (and the whole GLBT spectrum) and against abortion, right on the sidewalks where people were trying to walk. These protesters were a little intimidating and in-your-face (because, after all, they were telling everybody else on the street that they were going to burn in hell).

And all the Denver PD did was keep people out of the street. That’s it. No arrests. No intimidation tactics. No hassling the right-wing protesters.

Who do they go after?

Not the anti-abortion people, in spite of the violent tactics often associated with their movement. Not the people preaching hatred and intolerance.

They went after the peace activists. The journalists. The bloggers. The people calling for health care reform. The people calling for economic reform. The people who usually make a point of being non-violent in their protests. Sure, they’re uncooperative, but they are not violent or destructive.

And yet the police are treating them as if they were throwing bricks and molotov cocktails.

America is getting scary.

Make no mistake about it, my friends. We are now living in a police state.

And the worst of it is that the people who are running the show don’t seem to understand that they are creating the conditions that are more likely to lead to open revolt against the status quo.

If you allow people to protest, they tend to think, “Okay, things are fucked up, but at least we can still say that they’re fucked up, and protest, and march, because we have our constitutional rights to free speech and assembly. We can work with this.”

But when you stifle dissent…well…

In a way, society is like a pressure cooker. You need a way to vent pressure when it starts to build up to dangerous levels. Right now, certain factions within our society are trying to tighten the lid on the cooker, to prevent that venting from occurring. Protests are the steam valve that allows some of the pressure to bleed off.

Oppression breeds subversion. Rebellion.


Just sayin’…

jane doe

Update: I edited this post to give the source for the quoted text (the Denver Post).

Mr. Emanuel –

Today, you posted an article at the Huffington Post lamenting the fact that the cable news networks are covering the Democratic National Convention as if it were a sporting event. “This is Real News,” moans your headline, “Don’t Cover it Like a Sport.”

I’m sorry, but where did you get the idea that either of the party conventions are real news?

Did anything unpredictable happen? Will the convention settle anything that wasn’t settled back when the Obama camp announced that it had enough votes to secure the nomination?

No, to both.

Frankly, watching the conventions is a bit like watching a televised awards show, but with longer speeches.

Meanwhile, the Denver police are pepper spraying and using their batons on peaceful protesters. Wars rage on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush and Cheney want to start another war with Iran. The economy is in the toilet. Gas prices are so high they’ve finally done what all the screaming and yelling about global warming hasn’t been able to do so far – get Americans to drive less. High energy costs are driving up the cost of everything else, further harming the people at the bottom of the economic ladder. Political corruption is rampant. Companies like Blackwater and Halliburton are getting risk rich on our task dollars, at the cost of countless Iraqi lives, due to a war we never should have started in the first place. Our health care system is a mess. No Child Left Behind is wrecking our public schools. Our constitutional rights and any semblance of the personal privacy that was once considered our birthright as Americans are now in tatters. We seem on the verge of becoming that which we all profess to loathe – a fascist state. And nobody in the Bush administration has been impeached yet, despite numerous high crimes and misdemeanors.

To be perfectly honest, I think the cable news shows are giving the conventions about the level of respect they deserve. The only actual newsworthy event inside the Pepsi Center so far (that I’m aware of) has been Hillary’s speech, and that’s only because some of her fangirls just can’t let go and accept that she isn’t going to be the president come January 1, 2009.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize that the ultimate outcome of the elections come November is vitally important.

I’m just saying that most of what’s been happening inside the Pepsi Center for the past two days isn’t.

Best wishes,

jane doe

…on my convention coverage today. I thought I was going to finish up my comments about what I saw on theĀ  streets of Denver on Monday, then watch some of the campaign coverage, have dinner with a friend, and park myself in front of my monitor to catch Hillary’s speech.


So now it’s past midnight here in Colorado, and I’m finally getting to do a bit of writing. Good thing I’m over-caffeinated.

jane doe

P.S. I’m not going to blog about Hillary’s speech, except to say this: It was a good speech. She said what she needed to. She said a few things that will probably end up on bumper stickers. The Democrats all love each other again. The end.

As I wandered through downtown Denver, I saw a fair number of people who I recognized. I was initially parked quite near the MSNBC base of operations, so that’s where I saw most of these folks: my hero, Keith Olbermann; Chris Matthews; David Gregory; and the previously mentioned Richard Wolffe. Sadly, I did not get pictures of any of these gentlemen, or at least none worth posting. Matthews and Gregory were both up on the MSNBC stage (for want of a better term) where they were broadcasting from. Wolffe was standing on the street, talking to someone on his cellphone, so I felt it would be rude to take a picture of him. And Olbermann walked by so fast that I didn’t even realize it was him until he was too far behind me to get a shot of anything but his backside, which, let’s face it, is not really what we watch him for. (Sorry, Keith. We’d rather see your face.)

Of course, all of this pales in comparison to my favorite sighting of the day. As I was walking down 16th Street, I saw a guy who looked like Roy Zimmerman, a singer/satirist I have mentioned in this blog previously, and a big favorite of mine. (His songs are mostly political and social satire, and he has a real gift for a clever turn of phrase. I’ve downloaded several of his CDs from his website, and I listen to them frequently when I need to find the humor in the things that make me want to tear my hair out. I encourage you to check out his music.)

I looked a little closer and realized that it was, in fact, Roy Zimmerman.

Having realized this, I nevertheless asked the boneheaded question: “Excuse me, but aren’t you Roy Zimmerman?”

He confirmed that in fact he was.

Now, a smart blogger would have asked him for an interview. But I am new to this whole interacting-with-others-in-connection-with-my-blog thing, so that didn’t occur to me until after we had both gone our separate ways.

However, I did have a nice, if brief, chat with him. He seemed pleased to have someone recognize him, and gave me a copy of his latest CD, Thanks for the Support. I’ve been listening to it as I write this, and, like his previous albums, this one is quite good and very timely (sample song titles: Superdelegate, Eine Kleine Barackmusick, The Man, the Myth, the McCain (“He’s a bedrock conservative who actually lived in Bedrock”), and I Approve This Message). Plus, he manages to come up with a rhyme for “uterus” the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Tom Lehrer rhymed Oedipus with platypus. Here’s the title song off the album for your entertainment:

Cops of various flavors were out in force today, just looking for an excuse to try out some of their new riot gear. For the most part, they were hanging out in largish groups (typically 6-8), trying to look intimidating. Many were wearing full riot gear, though others were not (see first picture below). I took pictures of them until someone from the Secret Service told me to knock it off. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

A herd of Denver bicycle cops

A herd of Denver bicycle cops

Oh yeah, were tough

Oh yeah, we're tough

Horses in riot gear

Horses in riot gear

Safety in numbers

Safety in numbers

For all the police presence, I didn’t see any actual trouble today. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there was no trouble, only that I didn’t see any…

…maybe I’ll have better luck later in the week…

jane doe

Back at my home base now, having somehow found my way from wherever it was I ended up parking through the maze that is downtown Denver and back to the freeway. I’m currently listening to the live coverage of the convention on the MSNBC website while I go through my pictures and videos for the day. Rather than doing one long post, I’ll be writing a buncha shorter ones, so you may want to check back occasionally as the evening progresses. In the meantime, for your entertainment, here is a picture I took while I was stuck in the insane downtown Denver traffic:

jane doe

…but not because of the convention. No, Denver is a nightmare because the downtown area is a maze of one-way streets at odd angles.

Nevertheless, I’ve found a place to park – at least temporarily – near the MSNBC base for the convention. It’s a few blocks from the Pepsi Center, but seems to be swarming with people who are here for the convention. And, hey, saw Richard Wolffe (of Newsweek and MSNBC) talking on his cellphone.

I’m currently poaching a WiFi connection at a Starbucks (the very name makes me shudder, but it’s a WiFi connection). There’s a trio of German reporters at another page table, discussing things earnestly, and people wearing Obama buttons or what have you are drifting by on a fairly regular basis.

Favorite thing seen so far: a street vendor selling an Obama watch:

Watch vendor by MSNBC booth

Watch vendor by MSNBC booth

Not that being more accurate than Bush is all that difficult, but whatever.

Further updates as events warrant…I have to go move my car now.

jane doe

Now that the morning rush hour traffic has passed, I am going to go brave downtown Denver and see what there is to see of a political nature. Mostly, I plan on doing a lot of people watching – I love to see group dynamics at play. Plus, I want to see what’s going on as far as any major protests this week, since that’s the one area I have a fair chance of getting some good pictures and maybe interviews.

In my bag, I have the following critical pieces of convention-watching equipment:

  • My laptop
  • Cameras
  • Phone
  • Cords and cables for all of the above, for when their batteries give out
  • My iPod (because a venture of this nature requires the proper soundtrack)
  • A spiral notebook
  • A pen
  • My trusty Cubs cap
  • Sunscreen
  • Water
  • An apple and a PB&J sandwich
  • Driver’s license, credit card, and cash
  • Maps

You may have notice that nowhere on that list is any sort of credentials that could actually get me into anything convention-related. I have none. Apparently, my blog is too tiny to be considered worthy of such luxuries. Which means that if I get caught anywhere I shouldn’t be, I may end up at Gitmo on the Platte for a few hours.

But hey, I’ve never let a little thing like that stop me from trying to get in somewhere I don’t belong. Not that I expect to do that today. I figure security is going to be checking everyone very carefully today, since it’s the first official day of the convention. No, today, I will be scoping out the lay of the land, and getting a feel for how the grown-ups are dressed and what the credentials for various places I’d like to go look like.

Well, that, and seeing if I’ll be able to poach WiFi from the “Big Tent” where the real bloggers are going to be hanging out.

Wish me luck, everyone.

jane doe

This is a special last-minute advice column for anyone who has come to Denver to attend or protest at the Democratic National Convention this week. I’m not going to tell you sights you need to see, the clubs you should avoid, or any of that nonsense. This is a purely practical primer for getting by when you’re a mile high.

Water: Drink lots of it. The day you arrive and the entire time you are here. Seriously. The lower your starting altitude (where you were before coming to Denver), the more important this tip is. It’s so dry here that most of the time you don’t notice that you’re sweating. But you are. Nothing will put you on the sidelines with altitude sickness faster than allowing yourself to get dehydrated. This is particularly important for those who plan on participating in protests and/or getting into confrontations with the local police as a result of said protests, because it’s difficult to evade the police if you are gasping for air, and also because the place where they plan to lock up protesters “temporarily” apparently does not have drinking fountains (or restrooms, or phones to call your attorney).

Sunscreen: SPF 30, at least. The air is considerably thinner here than at sea level, and sunburn can develop very quickly. You may think, “Oh, I’m just walking across the street and back, I don’t need to worry about that.” Worry about it. On sunny days, paler people can literally feel their skin burning when they’re in direct sunlight for more than about twenty seconds.

Moisturizer/hand lotion: Local residents all joke about buying stock in Nivea. The air here will turn your skin to alligator hide faster than you would think possible. Get a small tube of lotion to carry in your purse or pocket. Lip balm is also a good thing.

Vaseline: If you have allergies or were prone to nosebleeds as a kid, consider dipping a Q-tip in Vaseline and swabbing the inside of your nose each morning. Yes, it sounds gross. And it feels a bit gross, too. But between the high pollen count and the dry air, Colorado has the potential to create an unbelievably uncomfortable situation inside your nose, with the possibility of both pain and nosebleeds for some people. It’s icky. Take precautions, then laugh at all the people who are experiencing their first nosebleeds since grade school.

Alcohol: Be forewarned that booze will hit you harder here than at sea level. This is particularly true if you haven’t been drinking enough water. And alcohol will, of course, make altitude sickness worse, because it just further dehydrates you. Drink a big glass (or two) of water before hitting the parties or clubs, and another glass before you pour yourself into bed at the end of the night.

Have fun, kids! And if you happen to see a woman in a snarky t-shirt, Birkenstocks, and cargo shorts (guaranteed to make you look fat no matter how thin your thighs are, but pockets galore for cameras, batteries, recorders, phones, etc.), wandering around the vicinity of the Pepsi Center and lugging a canvas shoulder bag covered with snarky political buttons and overflowing with even more electronic gear…it’s probably not me. Because seriously, I’m sure there will be a lot of protesters, bloggers, and/or tourists rocking this look. It’s Denver, it’s summer, and it’s a huge political circus – what else would you expect?

jane doe

Yeah, yeah, I know. I haven’t posted anything in days in spite of having several posts at various stages of the drafting process. What can I say? I’m a horrible person.

I’ll blame part of it on the fact that I am gearing up for the Democratic convention in Denver next week. Denver is within fairly easy driving distance of where I am living at the moment, so I plan to go see what kind of trouble I can get into outside the Pepsi Center, where it’s being held.

I’ll be driving up there one day this week to scout the terrain and see what kind of WiFi I might be able to poach in the neighborhood, so I can decide if it is worth the trouble (and potential for damage) to bring my laptop for a little live blogging. I’ll be taking my camera, and am trying to arrange for a video camera so I can maybe interview a few people or document any police abuse of protesters.

Speaking of which, here’s a scary thing: apparently, the Denver police have set up some warehouse with chain-link fenced-in pens for holding protesters who are arrested. No restrooms, no chairs, no telephones, no meeting places to talk with lawyers. Just these cages that look eerily like what one sees livestock herded into on their way to the slaughterhouse. And here’s some fun: according to a local news report (be sure to watch the video), there are signs up in the facility warning that “electric stun devices” are in use there. These are intended as a “temporary holding facility” while people are being processed (which also sounds rather slaughterhouse-like, come to think of it). According to at least one account I read, they don’t anticipate anyone being held there for more than 2-3 hours.

Still, two or three hours is a long time if you really need to use the restroom.

Apparently, they’re already referring to it as Gitmo on the Platte.

Personally, I am hoping to avoid the place. I don’t want to spoil my perfect record of evading arrest for my political activities. I’ve come close a few times. There was this one time, back in my undergrad days, where I was driving one of the getaway cars after a bit of political vandalism…but I digress. Plus, I really can’t afford to hire a lawyer right now.

And frankly, until George W. Bush and his buddies actually turn over the keys to the next president, I’d rather not do anything that will make it more likely that they will send me off to the real Gitmo.

Things are getting scary here, people. Can we please impeach Bush and Cheney now?

jane doe

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janedoe.tcm [at] or follow me on Twitter: @janedoe_tcm
August 2020