With so much discussion and buzz about “protest groups” and “left of left” nuts showing up in hordes to disrupt next weeks Democratic National Convention in Denver I wonder what will actually happen. Whether groups like Recreate 68 and Tent State University achieve their goals and gather thousands to Denver or if only a few very dedicated but loud folks will show up is yet to be determined. And if these groups manage to attract large crowds to the Mile High City will we be as the Republicans are saying, “A Mile High and an Inch Deep?” There is no way of knowing until the events of the next week begin to unfold.
Recreate 68 folks issued a call for action over a year ago asking people who want real change to come up to denver. They have built their group around non-violent movements and meetings, yet the language used on their website seems to say between the lines that violence in the name of self defense or defending their freedom of speech is alright. Protesters coming into Denver are even being offered self defense training. It seems like they are taking a lot of precautions for a supposed non violent group. Some of the most contentious points involving this and other groups has been their proposed desire to camp out in city parks. When interviewed, Glen Spagnuola, the leader of Recreate 68 continued to express his belief in non-violence, yet lawful protests didn’t seem to be among his top concerns.
Another point I found interesting was the concept of good protester/bad protester presented on Recreate 68’s site. What exactly is the difference and wouldn’t it be a completely subjective matter? To me, a good protester is someone coming out to march against the war and crimes associated with the war in Iraq. If my supposed good protester happens to get too close to the delegates and or break out of his or her “freedom cage,” they become a great protester. Bad protesters would belong to one of two groups. Either a “good protester” who does become violent towards the police or civilians or the Republicans who are showing up in Denver. The GOP seems to be the worst protester here, showing up uninvited to mock the Democrats and hock their slogan: Not Ready ’08.
It is obviously a matter of opinion and while everyone should have freedom to show up and express themselves, the great tragedy to me is that only a few groups will really be able to garner enough attention to affect potential change. I, like others, am concerned that the protest groups will turn to violence or unconventional means of demonstrating that will only attract negative attention and cause people to be turned off, not just off of the protesters but also away from the Democrats or politics in general, seeing the whole thing as one big messy circus. It should also be noted that what the supposed radical protesters are concerned about are issues that all of us should be concerned about, the war in Iraq, immigration, and poverty. I’m not saying that you have to be on the same side as the protesters but I would hope that their messages at least make the general public reflect on their own beliefs about these and other issues of utmost importance in the current socio-political environment and election.
And with regards to the election, how will the candidates handle these demon demonstrators? In an article in Time Magazine, Joe Klein asked Where’s Obama’s Passion? and I think that has been a question resonating in the minds of many who were steadily rooted in Camp Obama but are not growing weary of polished responses and trite remarks so similar to that other guy, and every other politician in American politics in history. I would love to see Obama go over to the Freedom Cage and talk to the protesters. Hear what they have to say through their own words, not through an interpreter and a thick protective blanket of barbed wire. For Obama to approach those who otherwise will be sequestered away would be, in my opinion, a brilliant political move, just as Klein argued it would have been for him to have actually gone down to the Veterans Office outraged and ready to change. For a man who talks about change and change we can believe in and why we must hope for a change we can believe in he has recently shown fewer and fewer changes. Maybe the political advisory machine has taken over but if I were advising Obama I would challenge him to get back to the primaries, even way before the primaries, when he wasn’t discussing wearing a flag pin versus not wearing a flag pin but when he was rallying support from the hippy wacko liberal protesters and even some of the right wing good old boys.
So what will happen in the coming week? Who will emerge as the bad boys? And how will presumptive Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama handle it? I guess we will have to wait and find out. Until then, everyone keep your head on straight and go speak your mind. I promise you don’t need to be in a cage to do so.