The Party is in the Streets! A Personal Account of Reclaiming the Streets in Occupied Denver
This is the tale of how anarchists and other dissidents took and held the streets for nearly three hours this Sunday, preceding the Democratic National Convention. Just about everyone I've talked to has pegged it as wildly successful. We suffered one arrest, a 12 yr old boy! The police really showed their true colors with that. Legal is working to make sure he's taken care of. If anyone has more on how to help him out, please post it to indymedia.
Allin all though, the march inspired demonstrators, defied the cops and brought in new folks off the street and ended in a totally impromptu second wind through downtown. We've shown the City of Denver that we won't be intimidated by their police and that the real party (and change) comes from the streets, it won't be found hiding behind the barricades of the cops.
I was walking briskly down 17th street, heading to Union Station where the Funk the War Party was converging. I had misjudged the distance and was trying to quickly get to the party. All along side me were armored trucks with riot police hanging off the sides, officers marching northward equipped with pepper ball rifles and plastic handcuffs, and dozens upon dozens of unmarked vans, black SUVs and sheriff cars representing all the nearby police municipalities. Needless to say, the city was definitely flexing its $50 million security budget.
Walking with a few friends to the action, I honestly couldn't imagine actually having fun. The police presence was effectively intimidating and a strange hush held in the air, even on the somewhat bustling 16th street pedestrian mall.
When we joined up with the march people were still on the sidewalk. The police were heavily following the procession and folks not interested in continuing the party were pettering out. While there was some music playing from a single sound system, the action was a far cry from the festive dance party being called for. People, myself included, were anxiously waiting to see how things would turn out.
Suddenly, the disguised sound systems cranked on and the Imperial March was blaring through speakers. Orange flags lead the march into the streets of 16th and the anxiety was broken. People started dancing to the follow up pop song and soon some raucous chants broke out.
We had taken the streets and the police had acquiesced. The party snaked through downtown, picking up momentum and energy. We would pass at an intersection to bust some moves in the streets and continue on.
The action would ebb and flow- moving from more somber marching through the streets, pick up into a spirited chant and flow through with us hugging our comrades and waving at the onlookers. A lot of folks looked excited to see the action going down, even if they weren't sure if they should align themselves with the anticapitalists. I think the simple fact that we were holding ourselves high in a fun and assertive way, gained a lot of approval in a previous situation of extreme tenseness of the police state.
The whole feel of the city was transforming. I felt like anything was possible. The power was no longer in the hands of the hundreds officers marching along, but instead with the people in the streets- jumping and dancing as the awkward police lines struggle to catch up.
We ended up reaching our destination at Civic Center Park where a bizarre bonanza of Obama paraphenalia and free handouts of really bad energy-laden water was being distributed. Again, there were quite a few smiles amongst the mostly silent and perplexed Democrats. We snaked through the booths of Obama t-shirts and Allstate table, ending up at Broadway, where danced, clapped and shouted some more. The force of the crowd was palpable and as the police attempted to slowly move in, the mass of revelers quickly spread out, again determinedly taking our stance.
As the music was blaring on Broadway, some people started to spread the party outward onto Lincoln Park. Somewhere during that time a young boy, who looked to me to be 11 or 12 was nabbed by the police. I didn't see how it happened or what provoked it, but I saw him being held with his arms behind his back by two officers. The kid was obviously scared and despite us vigorously shouting "Let Him Go!!" He was carted off.
I wish I knew more about his situation, but all I know is that the Legal Team is taking care of it. This all happened with the Democrats silently looking on from the other side of Broadway- a telling visual of the kind of change they represent as they cynically call for people to "join the movement." What kind of movement is fortified by a police state that hauls of 12 year olds?
The crowd eventually shifted across Lincoln Park to Lincoln Street, directly in front of the Capitol. The mood relaxed a bit as people knew we had won. We had made it back to the park and were going to be given sanctuary. A lot of people still stayed in the street to continue singing and dancing. Folks sat down at the parks to chat and look on. A lot of new folks had been pulled in at this point. I overheard a really genuine, spirited and respectful discussion happening between two women- one an Obama enthusiast and the other anarchist. It was exciting to see folks exchanging ideas in a nonconfrontational way.
Then at some point the mass spontaneouly decided they weren't done- it was time to bring the party back to 16th street. So, without much real direction the demonstrators snaked back down the streets to weave through the downtown shopping district.
This contingent, though still with a strong anarchist presence, had brought a lot of new folks into the fold, many of them the most jubilant and passionate, with people I'd never seen before shouting chants at the top of their lungs atop newspaper stands. I saw a few different moms with their children marching along, as well as some local youth. Again, a lot of the onlookers were clapping along (though still a lot of perplexity was to be had).
I started to get the feeling that the directionless of the march was going to lead to some trouble and started consulting my affinity group. We decided, since all of us were nonarrestable and had already pushed things much more than we ever anticipated, that we would duck out quietly.
It was at that point however, that the march hit a police line, double backed and was then fenced in on both ends of the street. Some folks eating at the few cafes were stuck in the middle, but the police refused to break their lines. Us, along with some other folks, saw people slipping through an office building. A super friendly guy was directing people through a back exit that lead to an alley. We slipped through and joined back up with the shoppers, protesters and delegates.
After following up, we've been told no one was arrested and that people were able to fan out.
The action was a resounding success in my opinion. After entering my beloved city fearing for my life, I left it feeling the power of people coming together to make real their desires. I know this account is a bit over the top and there are definite elements that could have been stronger, but I just can't discount the high that so many people were feeling. We made our presence known, we confronted the police state with joy, humor and lawlessness and people in Denver are excited for the rest of the week. This shit is gonna be hot.