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For 2008 Democratic National Convention

Denver officials attack free speech rights

Protesters still plan to mobilize

Published Jun 13, 2007 10:34 PM

The Denver City Council decided it would not hear argument for a proclamation that assures that protesters’ First Amendment rights would be protected for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Recreate 68 Alliance members and supporters
from left to right, are Glen Spagnuolo,
Larry Hales, Barbara Cohen, Val Phillips,
Mag Seamen and Ken Seamen.

The move to block a vote on the proclamation was spearheaded by Charlie Brown, a city councilperson in Denver, who has made it his cause to verbally attack organizers with the Recreate 68 Alliance—the main group organizing for the thousands that will converge on Denver next year as an act of resistance to the Democratic Party’s pro-war, anti-labor and anti-immigrant positions.

Brown, who even stated that members of the Recreate 68 Alliance are “cruising for a bruising,” and that the Alliance is trying to instigate a showdown, has shown nothing but hostility.

In public comments allowed for two city council members, Kathleen MacKenzie, who sponsored the proclamation, and Brown, Brown told the packed City Council Chamber that the police are not like Burger King, that the protesters cannot “have it their way.”

He also violence-baited the alliance and invoked the federal government’s fear-inducing charge of the possibility of “terrorism” in 2008, and the reason the resolution should not be heard is that it would tie the hands of the local government and state and federal cops.

The proclamation itself is reminiscent of the resolution passed in New York City in 2004, though the cops ultimately revealed their nature in capitalist society and attacked activists during the Republican National Convention. It is also similar to the resolution passed in St. Paul this year.

The Alliance’s proclamation is an affirmation of rights guaranteed in the First Amendment, and partly reads:

Section 1. That the Council calls upon Mayor John Hickenlooper and other city officials to affirm and uphold the exercise of First Amendment rights in Denver upon the occasion of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Section 2. That the Council calls upon City officials to take affirmative measures to uphold and protect the rights of speech, expression and association, at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, including the creation and implementation of systems and procedures to ensure that (a) there is reasonable and prompt action on permit applications for public demonstrations, marches and rallies; (b) use of force, including the use of horses, pepper spray or other aggressive means to police public demonstrations, is restricted except to the minimal extent required by legitimate law-enforcement purposes; (c) demonstrations may occur in close proximity to and within sight and sound of the Convention delegates, consistent with reasonable security concerns; (d) restricted use of four-sided enclosures or barricades to confine the movement of people at public demonstrations except in limited circumstances based on legitimate and reasonable security concerns, and in such circumstances ensure that such enclosures have sufficient openings to allow people to exit, return and move freely around the demonstration site.

The proclamation is simple, not the original one written by members of Recreate 68, but a slightly modified one. Yet, even it is being rejected. This reaction by the Denver City Council represents a clear danger to activists building resistance to the Democratic National Convention.

Activists repeatedly have stated that the festival planned next year is to be peaceful and that the invocation of 1968 is merely because of the mood of that era. After all, it was a cop riot that ensued and this is the reason the proclamation is needed.

The proclamation does not necessarily protect against a reaction, but it is evidence that activists are not putting the thousands of protesters at risk and not calling for any acts of violence and are trying to ensure unfettered access to the entire city, right up to the front entrance of the Pepsi Center, as is the right of all people that will protest in August of 2008.

That it was not passed and was vehemently opposed is perhaps a sign of the times, but at the very least it is a clear message.

The city of Denver, a liberal bastion—a city whose police conducted years of surveillance on activists, then tried to destroy the evidence, a city where the police have a long record of abuse and violation of civil rights—is not the postcard image nestled to the east of the Rocky Mountains, but a city like most in the U.S., cold and harsh and seemingly ready to defy the thousands who will clamor here to make a statement against the other major capitalist party, the Republican-lite Democratic Party.

Regardless of city, state and federal authorities’ plans, Glen Spagnuolo from Recreate 68, states, “They have the Pepsi Center and we have the rest of the city. That’s called freedom. You can’t put me in a cage and tell me, ‘You’re free.’ That’s not democracy.”