One way or another, Dem convention will be a blast

Denver, Colorado

As the Beijing Olympics (and John Edwards) engulf the mainstream media, or at least NBC and its various entities, Denver continues to prepare for the Democratic National Convention. And I, as an area resident, am less than thrilled about it.

For starters, it’s not going to be a financial or PR windfall for Denver. Denver is and always has been the jumping off point for Colorado tourism and certainly doesn’t need the publicity to boost its influx of tourists, sports enthusiasts, and new residents. And we sure don’t need the colossal expense the city is going to get stuck with. The brief flood of politicians and media won’t even begin to pay for itself.

The Pepsi Center, site of the convention, is very close to downtown Denver. Area traffic is going to be nasty, far uglier than the normal daily gridlock. Side streets and main thoroughfares will be closed for security reasons, either 24/7 or during certain specified hours of the day. One or more parade routes have been designated and will be blocked off for the exclusive use of demonstrators and protesters (assuming those bent on being seen and heard will actually adhere to the rules). But wait, it gets worse. I-25 runs through the downtown area, with major interchanges just a few blocks from the convention center. Invesco Field, where Obama plans to give his acceptance speech, is on the other side of the interstate. Thus endeth commuter and interstate traffic.

Then there’s the designated “demonstration zone” at the Pepsi Center — sort of. What a joke. It’s a fenced off area in a parking lot about a quarter of a mile from the PC’s entrance. As in previous years, there’s not a chance in hell that demonstrators are going to politely congregate inside the fence like so many sheep in a pen. Enterprising local reporters have already shown (I almost said “demonstrated”) that a person shouting from the sheep pen cannot be heard at the PC’s main entrance.

Thousands of downtown workers are planning to stay home during the convention because it will be so difficult to get to and from work. A college campus near the convention center is going to be shut down. Eateries usually filled with downtown lunch crowds will be closed to the public, reserved instead by convention-related groups as their gathering places. Free movie tickets will be given to the homeless to get them off the streets — and into the downtown theaters (that’ll be a big draw for the paying customers). City Park will be filled with some 20,000 college-age malcontents in a tent city they’ve dubbed Tent State University.

Ah, yes, the demonstrators. Off the top of my head I can name Recreate ’68, Unconventional Denver, Hillary’s PUMAs, and Code Pink as planning to demonstrate, protest, or otherwise establish a “presence” here. Based on all I’ve read and heard about these groups, it seems highly unlikely all their public gatherings will remain peaceful. When you put that many highly emotional, motivated, publicity-seeking people on the streets and confront them with a beefed up, riot-geared police presence — you’re gonna get trouble, right here in River City.

We’ve been treated to stories about police departments from all over the metro area sending officers in to help during the convention. We’ve read about the things people won’t be allowed to carry — weapons, obviously, but also aerosol cans of any kind; containers that could hold such lovelies as bleach, ammonia, urine, or feces; super-soaker squirt guns that could be filled with who knows what; and even carabiners, because people could use them to link themselves together. Both sides are creative and imaginative in rather scary ways.

These demonstrators are no amateurs, either. The Recreate ’68 activists, for example, actually conducted a sort of training camp in the mountains near Denver, with registrants coming in from all over the country to learn the fine art of civil disobedience. They also learned how to be “street medics” so they can treat each other when they get injured during their “peaceful” demonstrations.

When I first heard the convention was going to be in Denver, I thought, “Cool! Wouldn’t it be fun to go!” Then I realized only delegates and press get into the actual convention hall. Later, Barack Obama announced he would make his acceptance speech at Invesco Field, which seats 70-80,000. Again my first thought was, “Cool! Wouldn’t it be fun to go!”

Nope. I’ve decided it doesn’t sound at all like fun. Once I managed to get a ticket, get through the traffic, find a place to park, get past the demonstrators, and get checked though security and into my seat, it might be fun (or I might get my head cracked open by some numbnut). But I don’t like to work that hard to maybe have fun. Besides, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and others on the Religious Right are praying for it to rain that night.

© 2008

... and that's my two cents