Friday, September 5, 2008

DNC Story.... Overview

More stories to come.... you can read a lot of what happened in the news, on , on, or different activists' blogs. My story can be told a few different ways... here's a few pictures...

First off, this is fucked up:

I guess that's how we fight sexism... or something...

Son of Nun raps at City of Cuervencea Park on Sunday:

There are few pics from Sunday because I spent most of my time tabling at the park, or in the march. In general the march went ok-ish in so far as it got its message out there, most people in the streets received and responded to it very positively, and well there was some media coverage of the actual messages we tried to raise and I suppose that is what a march is supposed to do, isn't it?

In inter-movement political lesson drawing out terms I may say that this march was a bit chaotic. While it is great ARD was able to organize it, we didn't have enough marshals, or enough people at the heads of the feeder marches who knew the routes and could act responsibly. As someone part of organizing this I did spend a bit of time just trying to figure out what was going on, particularly after the unannounced anarchists' splinter march took off. Things were pretty chaotic after that and it was a bit confusing, and frustrating... but whatever, some people people will always want to show up at someone else's march and split people off from it to go a different way under different banners.

The one thing that bothered me though is I felt the cops were behaving very cool all day so far... We had been told that, since Sunday was an unpermitted march through downtown, we'd be arrested if we stepped into the street when the sign said not to cross. Not only did the cops not arrest us, but they actually stopped traffic to let our marches cross streets when the lights turned.

What bothered me then about the split off march, was that it headed the wrong way up a one way street totally off route and in my opinion was basically just an attempt to say 'fuck you' to the cops... saying fuck you to the cops is all fine and good when you just show up for a protest with your friends to get your kicks, but when you've been organizing for a demo for a long time, and you know a lot of people- including people who've brought their whole families out- have showed up to a 'safe' event with a low probability of arrest, and some people are actively trying to jeopardize the prepared nature of the event by deliberately and unnecessarily antagonizing the cops, that puts people in danger, places them in a situation they did not sign up for, and if something bad like police violence or arrest of bystanders/protesters were to occur, march organizers- rather than crashers- would have been held responsible for the fracas...

That's my one criticism of Sunday... some members of unconventional denver had been working with ARD for quite a while in building the demos and I've thought- and still do- that they were great activists... but to organize a cannibalistic splintering march, that just pisses off the cops for very little marginal political gain, behind ARD's back, and never once bring up this idea, or ask anyone else in ARD about it, or how we can merge the two ideas... that really bothers me and I think it is deceitful.

At the end of the day though I didn't think this was too big off a deal... no one seemed to have gotten hurt, and no one seemed to have gotten arrested throughout the DNC protests who didn't want to get arrested. Instead from the relative disorganization of the march I'd like to draw more positive lessons, that if you're part of organizing something you have to step up and make sure leadership happens... if you don't lead, because you are afraid of responsibility, or you're turned off by how some 'leaders' crave media spotlights, or because you're afraid of what repercussions will be taken out against any leaders, you can be sure that on the day someone else will be willing to step in and fill that void- and they might be there to take things in a much different direction than you'd like to see.

Here's an article with some video of sunday.

Monday and Tuesday were some tabling, a lot of work, and meeting with some immigrant rights' protesters from LA who drove all the way up to do an action and join the immigrant rights' march on Thursday.

Tuesday night I made dinner and we watched some of those great but cheesy Spanish soap operas on univision. It was great to get to house these people, and help make their demos possible.

Wednesday was the longest day. I was woken up at 6 AM by a phone call that let me know I got to drive to Ft Collins, immediately, to pick up the Coup and bring them to the Denver Coliseum. They were pretty nice folks and it was a pleasure to meet them. They were staying in Ft Collins because all the hotels in Denver were booked. It was a really beautiful drive up there, early in the morning.

Then we got to the Coliseum. it was great to meet some more of the IVAW folks back stage. I can say a lot of things about a lot of different venue's backstage areas. But about the Denver Coliseum I can say that for a venue of its size it has the worst organized backstage rest rooms I have ever seen. There are only two stalls for guys, and no urinals. This is obnoxious and inefficient for guys. Oddly the sink was in one of the stalls, a big open one, but behind the door. That was a little weird.

So in this strange, tiny, horribly designed bathroom I meet what looks like some kind of wild west cowboy with a big hat on. We're all waiting in line chatting, commenting on the poor design of the bathroom, and it turns out this person I'm standing next to is Jeff Key.

Jeff Key is an Iraq war Veteran who wrote "The Eyes of Babylon", a one man play he stars in and is currently performing in Denver. It's about his experiances in the war, and in being an openly gay Marine. More info here.

This is its last weekend, see it while you can.

Obviously I didn't waste precious phone battery to take pictures of this funk bathroom- and besides that would have been creepy... but these were the more glamorous parts of backstage....

There were some sandwiches I got to eat.

But I was no rock star that day, it was time to get to work!

Armed with my backstage pass, tent state t shirt, and event organizer wrist band, I grabbed my water and a bucket and worked the crowd coming in asking for money. I asked the crowd for money because although it was a free show, it wasn't free to put on. It cost a lot to buy the bands plane tickets and basically just a few activists, without ever being asked, stepped forward to front this money. I was trying to get it back to them. I think I got several hundred, maybe a little over a grand, but I didn't have time to count it.

A lot of folks, some of who I had met at protests, or who had volunteered to make signs in the lead up to the demos, walked by. My landlord even walked by! That was cool to see. He threw in a few bucks.

From what I hear the Rage Against the Machine show went great, and the other bands did well too. The coliseum was full (it seats 10,000), and at least 4,000 of those people made it all way downtown with the IVAW march against the war. Without those bands bringing people out we'd have a lot smaller protests, all week. I think this was a great model of how political bands can use their influence to get people involved with grass roots organizing.

Here's some clips of Rage:

Here's the Coup Performing!

That Badass- riling all those people up, was in the back seat of my old beat up Subaru Forester just a few hours earlier. I'm not saying that in a star struck way, or in a "I'm cool for chilling with bands" way, but I'm saying it in a human way. I feed myself by waiting tables on rich assholes who fuck up the economy and bribe politicans. That is the truth. That's my life. We all gotta do stuff we don't like, stuff that makes us depressed, or degrades who we are, in order to survive.

But on Wednesday that's not all I was. I was on that stage on Wednesday, I helped to make THAT happen. That is way more fucking powerful than just being some drone in a tie with a tray full of grey goose or two hands of good wine making sure no glass goes dry... I wasn't there to see all those people get riled up and inspired by the coup, but I was there with them long enough to make it possible, and just as important- they were there with me, that night, on the other side of the guest lists and the secret service... They were keeping me going, and making me proud of who I can be, and letting me know what kind of power I can have.

You can't quantify that in any way... but that's the power and the confidence that protest gives people, and it's why mass protests- though they need to be part of a movement that also includes direct actions, strikes, etc...- will never be "ineffective", or "insufficient"... they're incredibly physiologically and politically valuable- as much for their effect on our side as for the fear or embarrassment they can strike into the powerful.

Then it was off to work to set up for a big party. Sadly my backstage pass went to waste and I didn't get to see any bands! Oh well... business has been slow for months and here's a party I have to work which is a nice guaranteed check so hey, we do what we can.

We set everything up pretty and we got some flat screen tvs so the DNC folks could watch MSNBC. There were two parties and several floor shifts I worked that week, but I saw Obama, Hillary, and Obama's wife's speeches all at work.

Cops in riot gear wandered through our hotel and hung out in the basement... they must have been hidden re-enforcements or something.

More cops lined up outside our Patio:

As Iraq Veterans Against the War led a few thousand activists from the Rage show in a march to the Pepsi center, where the DNC was meeting. They were calling out the Dems for hypocrisy in continuing to fund the war, and were asking to meet with them.

There go the Veterans

Followed by their supporters

The back of the March, headed west

These are Phil W's photos.

It was too bad to have to work, but it was kind of neat to be part of the observing public for a change, rather than always the activist in the demo who is wondering how other people are observing things. It was also neat to watch everything alongside all my coworkers, and to see their reactions to things. It was kind of great to see all that, something that, in my own small way, I did help to make possible, and to be able to point out to the people around me that 1) I do stuff with my ideas , and 2) other people also don't like the democrats funding the war and are ready to do stuff about it.

It was really great the veterans led this march. When I refer to "my work", I refer to a hotel, and two restaurants inside of it... this all means there are a lot of people I work along side but who aren't necessarily in my department... there are also many managers, but they aren't necessarily "my" managers. Anyways, one such manager in the building is a rather right wing person, who is a veteran of the first gulf war. This person did have some snide comments to say about some of the people marching, but he couldn't really say anything about the veterans themselves. For my coworkers for whom this one manager is the primary veteran's voice they ever hear, it was very good for them to hear he doesn't speak for all veterans, many of whom like anyone else don't like the war.

I have many interesting stories from my perspective of being an organizer and also working in a fancy restaurant during these DNC parties. For example, did you know that it's not a violation of political ethics for the very banks whose irresponsible lending is responsible for the recession to spend $33,000-$40,000 on one party for 150 or so Democratic governors and congressmen? The reason is that because they were eating raw oysters and Alaskan king crab with their hands off a buffet table, rather than with a fork and knife, this one party wasn't technically a 'dinner'- so it was ok for corporate lobbyists to pick up the tab. I'm not kidding. The ending of this story is more fucked up. I wrote it down with pen and pad and it will be its own blog next.

Thursday was the immigrant rights protest. The turn out for it, like all the events that week, was a little smaller than many had feared, or hoped; but it was still a good event to have. I met some great folks there, and peddled "no one is illegal" buttons and got a few copies of Mike Davis and Just Akers' book of the same name into people's hands.

Here's the march as it ended in the park:

And that was about it. After the march folks started leaving. I said my goodbyes to William from LA, Kevin/ Son of Nun from Bmore, and Sarah from LA. I gassed up, munched on some free burritos (thanks food not bombs!), and headed off to work.

That night at work Obama's speech was on the flat screen TV. When he talked about defending Israel, or getting out of Iraq "responsibly", or about parental responsibility it was a big turn off. You'll notice that guy never says a word about how maybe its bad so many parents are locked up in prisons, or how there's racial profiling, segreated education still, or anything else that might scare white democrats with money...

But when he talked about the economy it was actually pretty inspiring. The "ordinary Americans" who spoke before him seemed to just be reading off a page but what they said was very moving- usually the kind of life is hard in America stories you'd read somewhere like Socialist Worker- not from the front of a Democratic Party convention!

That speech was showing at my job on one of the flat screen tv's and all the staff as well as diners were watching. There are a lot of problems with Obama... but to see some of my right wing, pro war managers and coworkers watch his speech was awesome... they definitely felt intimidated by it, sort of like a kid whose done something wrong and gets a 'talking to' by a responsible adult. That's probably the first time in my life I've ever seen a major political figure on TV say something that makes a manager of mine a little scared. In 2004 John Kerry was going to "hunt down and kill the terrorists", had zero populism in his platform, and my manager at tower records was cursing at the employees while she was driving that business into the ground and eventually costing us all our jobs. Times sure are different...

Anyways, someone else said this and I'll appropriate it here... I don't believe in Obama, but I do believe in the people who believe in Obama... who don't drink the cool-aid, and who are hurting from the war and the economy and who are willing to do something about it. I met a lot of these people this past week.

Hell, I helped fill THIS ENTIRE PLACE

full of people like that, provide them with an opportunity to march with antiwar veterans to call out politicians (such as obama) who say one thing and do another (Obama just voted for more war funding and endorsed government spying on people), and to get them some radical politics. I personally put a lot of radical books in people's hands this past week, got some left newspapers and other info distributed...

So at the end of the day.... things could have been a little bigger, and better organized, but we were up against enormous difficulties from the beginning. I'd say for what we had to work with we pulled off a successful week, and helped to lay some more of that ground work for what will be a very long political process- to change the direction in which the US is headed.

1 comment:

  1. wow...that was a really good read.
    inspiring, actually.