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An outlaw view of the underbelly of the beast during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
August 29, 2008 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Fear and Loathing in Denver, Colorado - August 24-28, 2008.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (56 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just a random taste as an example.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:17 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


nice post, thanks.
posted by HappyHippo at 5:25 AM on August 29, 2008


Glad to see RATM kept relatively calm this time around.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:27 AM on August 29, 2008


"It's a pity that in this wealthy nation of ours, there are children that go hungry everyday. If only they'd take the time to have a snack." - Jonathan Katz
posted by jbickers at 5:27 AM on August 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


free speech zones suck. Free speech cages are worse.
posted by garlic at 5:35 AM on August 29, 2008


Pretty nice photos! Shame there isn't a Gonzo in there somewhere with a fly swatter and a cigarette filter.
posted by cavalier at 5:36 AM on August 29, 2008


Great photos. Momocrats are using "Rage Against the McCain" as a tagline. Someone needs to get cracking and make a t-shirt already.
posted by jeanmari at 5:39 AM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


It sickens me that every police department treats protesters like criminals, and Chicago '68 like a model to emulate.

And it sickens me all the more that the Democratic Party doesn't say loudly, clearly, and repeatedly to host cities that peaceful political protest is a right that police ought to protect, not intimidate and prevent.
posted by orthogonality at 5:47 AM on August 29, 2008 [10 favorites]


Free Speech Zone? The whole fucking country is meant to be a Free Speech Zone!
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:52 AM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is about the scariest thing I can imagine.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:57 AM on August 29, 2008


Ok. You are in charge of policing a huge convention. A batch of different groups for all sorts of reasons expect to protest. How do you protect their rights to free speech and at the same time allow the convention and those attending to take place? Do you simply let the various protest groups do whatever they want right up to the doors of the convention? How do you protect the rights of those there for the convention? Your anser, if Just let them do their thing, seems to me a bit questionable, having seen a number of demonstrations get quickly out of hand.

I too believe in free speech, dislike cops caging people etc etc ( I was early on involved in Viet Nam protests at Rutgers), and it is a real issue, not readily dismissed by "allow free speech, etc"
How do you proceed, then?
posted by Postroad at 6:03 AM on August 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Amazing photography! I wish they had come up with an original title rather than riding Hunter's coat tails. But then again I might not have clicked the link without that title.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:07 AM on August 29, 2008


The terrorists hate our freedom[cage]s.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:19 AM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


How do you proceed, then?

Step 1: Reject orwellian terms such as "free speech zone".
Step 2: Clear area of weapons and debris that can be used as weapons (i.e. lock the doors at 2x4s 'R Us).
Step 3: Get out of the riot gear, which only serves to alienate and distance the protectors from the protectees.
Step 4 and more: Study how some other countries, who already don't do the above, proceed.
posted by DU at 6:22 AM on August 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


How do you protect their rights to free speech and at the same time allow the convention and those attending to take place?

I don't have a great answer. Probably a barricade perimeter, only people on the list on this side, that sort of thing. Like what they do to keep the Klan safe, when those fucks get a marching permit somewhere.

But if your answer involves locking people in cages, you have abjectly failed. We have all abjectly failed.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:24 AM on August 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


OTOH they did, by random hassling, catch those nutjobs with sniper rifles. I'm pretty pleased about that.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:29 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Awesome photos. Makes me wish I had taken them.
posted by malaprohibita at 6:39 AM on August 29, 2008


hey robot made out of meat, was it "random hassling" or good police work?
posted by malaprohibita at 6:39 AM on August 29, 2008


Step 4 and more: Study how some other countries, who already don't do the above, proceed.

can you name the countries and tell us what they do?
posted by Postroad at 6:41 AM on August 29, 2008


Maybe things are weird enough now. Hmph. Too late.
posted by IvoShandor at 6:41 AM on August 29, 2008


Step 4 and more: Study how some other countries, who already don't do the above, proceed.

Which countries are those? I mean, every time you hear about big protests around the world (such as the G8 summit, the WTO, etc) you always hear about huge riots and protests. Eventually they just started having those conferences in small, elite villages that they could control completely, rather then big cities, or in less civil liberties minded nations like the middle east or Singapore.

So anyway, I'd be interested in any examples you could give of places that don't behave this way when dealing with the potential for massive amounts of protesters.
posted by delmoi at 6:43 AM on August 29, 2008


Free speech zones make me have to shit.
posted by zzazazz at 6:45 AM on August 29, 2008


Are we still doing the free speech zone thing? Seriously? Ugh.

Also, are anti-war protesters protesting an anti-war candidate, or am I missing something here?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:53 AM on August 29, 2008



Step 4 and more: Study how some other countries, who already don't do the above, proceed.

The cops were refreshingly professional and restrained at the WTO Conference in Hong Kong in '05.
posted by dawson at 6:56 AM on August 29, 2008


Thanks for this post.
posted by lunit at 7:20 AM on August 29, 2008


How do you proceed, then?

You know, here in the UK, which is hardly a model for regulation of protest (see the ongoing farce about on-the-fly, don't wear a t-shirt with 'Peace' on it protest exclusion around Parliament, or the hunt protestors getting batoned by cops), they do some things right. Riot police are generally held in reserve or used to block specific roads, with the majority of the police lining routes or forming lines in standard issue bobby gear.

I have had the rare opportunity as a civilian to participate in riot training, when I was in the Territorial Army. As human beings, we are to a quite significant degree affected deeply by how we present ourselves to the world, and how we are percieved. Wearing body armour, carrying a shield and a baton and hiding your eyes with sunglasses turns you into a walking threat detector. In short, if you're wearing the gear to combat violent threats, violent threats tend to present themselves. And if they don't, the combination of twist-in-the-gut tension, heat, shouting, anger and the presence of others around you can mean that a shove, a shout or a posture will be met with a baton to the face.

I've stood in a line at a fake riot with paratroopers winging potatoes at my head, wearing a tam o' shanter and a combat jacket, and successfully held the line and avoided violence. Fifteen minutes later in a second exercise, there were maybe two or three minutes of shields being kicked, placard sticks being belted off helmets and screaming in our face before the bundling to the ground, batoning and shoving started. The armour creates a remove between those trying to control protest and those trying to protest, and that void is often filled with violence. Do you think this cop would have baton-slammed that protestor if he'd been stood there with the baton secured to his belt and sunglasses off?
posted by Happy Dave at 7:22 AM on August 29, 2008 [15 favorites]


...and then there as the Martin Luther King and Ghandi approach...
posted by Postroad at 7:26 AM on August 29, 2008


The DNC did a good job with Iraq Vets Against the War, actually acceding to their request to meet with party brass and/or Obama. A rep was ushered into the building and got his hearing, and the planned arrest-a-thon was avoided.

Unfortunately I do not have details about the meeting itself.
posted by Mister_A at 7:33 AM on August 29, 2008


I do agree with the sentiment that having the police bristling with intimidating arms and armor creates a dangerous and violent environment. They invite violence with this menacing display.
posted by Mister_A at 7:35 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


malaprohibita: news sources are saying accidental discovery during a "routine traffic stop." Erratic driving is cause for a ticket, and if he seemed strung out an arrest and search. Still, totally random activity. They were just lucky that he swerved while a cop was around to see it.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:38 AM on August 29, 2008


I think the sniper folks were discovered thanks to a "routine traffic stop", now whether that's code for "routine-when-a-political-convention is in town" or not I have no idea.
posted by abulafa at 7:44 AM on August 29, 2008


Thank you.
posted by phrontist at 8:00 AM on August 29, 2008


I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that it was a 'routine traffic stop' over two weeks in the making, involving multiple law enforcement agencies...
posted by felix at 8:02 AM on August 29, 2008


Postroad writes "Ok. You are in charge of policing a huge convention. "

You start by reserving the riot helmets and billy clubs for when they're needed, not using paramilitary paraphernalia as the standard police outfit.

That equipment intimidates and enrages protesters, and gives cops a testosterone rush and a feeling of invincibility; those things in turn make confrontation and clashes more, not less, likely.

I'd find the fattest, friendliest cops on the force -- the older, seasoned, rather get home than get in a fight desk sergeants -- and send them up front, to say to the protesters, "welcome to Denver, we're glad to have all our guests here, and we're here to protect your right to protest. But we need to protect everyone's rights, so I hope you'll understand that we need to keep the streets unblocked for ambulances and firetrucks, and we need to let the conventioners do their business too. Now if anyone wants to be symbolically arrested, can you come up one at a time, and I'll note your names on my clipboard; anyone else, please enjoy your peaceful protest, it's in the best American tradition, and again, I hope you enjoy your stay as guests of our fair city."
posted by orthogonality at 8:21 AM on August 29, 2008 [24 favorites]


Those are some great images, I can't wait to see the movie!

Did they get Vin Diesel? I hope they do a good job with the futuristic cars - I hate when they all look like Civics with crap bolted on.
posted by freebird at 8:32 AM on August 29, 2008


Thus spoke the cynic:

Everybody got what they want. The Democrats got a cool new leader. The cops got to dress up in totally rad and intimidating gear. The protesters made Metafilter, and they got air mattresses to sleep on.
posted by philip-random at 8:38 AM on August 29, 2008


another deeply disturbing situation in Denver involving The Other Side Arts (below is a press release issued by TOSA)

Denver Arts Organization Targeted by Police

Denver Police targeted The Other Side Arts, a non profit art center as part of an effort to, "clean up the neighborhood" just before the Democratic National Convention. On Sunday afternoon, a number of police officers from Denver and Aurora Police Departments appeared outside of TOSA, some dressed in riot gear, and begin to investigate the property. They asked one of the residents if the cars parked along side our building belonged to them and began asking about the graffiti pieces on the building. The police were told by the resident that the cars belonged to TOSA artists and that the graffiti pieces were done by local artists with the permission of the organization. They were also told that the creation of one of the pieces was even commissioned by the organization and documented as a time-lapse video on our website. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAB6kMPWf0Q

TOSA has a long history with providing graffiti artists with space to create their pieces in a society where graffiti is under appreciated and misunderstood. After about an hour went by, the police proceeded to paint over all of the art pieces on the building. They entered the property and went through items in storage and destroyed TOSA signs in an effort to remove small "tags." They removed the organization's dumpster which also had some "tags" on the side of it and removed other private property belonging to another tenant of the property. One of the artists in the building was pressured by police to chain a gate which then blocked a fire exit and investigated the political art show "UnConventional" that was hanging in the gallery. The goal of the show was "to spark dialogue between diverse communities around our current political climate and how it affects the future of our country." Though the name of the exhibition is the same as a loosely organized protest group, there was absolutely no connection.

When the executive director, Crissy Robinette called officials to find out what happened, she was told that the organization was targeted by police because they had evidence that radical protesters were using the building. The City of Denver agency, Denver Partners Against Graffiti denies any record of the incident despite witnesses that saw their vehicles. On their website, the Denver Partners Against Graffiti have a policy that states: "The city must have a signed authorization form to remove graffiti from private property." http://www.denvergov.org/DenverPartnersAgainstGraffiti/AboutUs/tabid/384234/Default.aspx By the time the "clean up" was finished, there were so many officers on the site that an RTD bus had to pick them up.

This is the second time the organization was targeted by police. In May of 2002 the Denver Police Department responded to a fundraiser organized and benefiting Breakdown Book collective, another non-profit organization, that rented space at TOSA. At around 11 p.m., just as a DJ was firing up the turntables for the hundred or so peaceable attendees, a police helicopter and eleven squad cars arrived, reportedly in response to a noise complaint. The attendees were told to disperse or the police dogs would be let loose on them.
posted by kuppajava at 10:20 AM on August 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


pls dont pretend ur HST kthxbye
posted by Meatbomb at 10:26 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Huh. Rage Within the Machine, perhaps?
posted by jokeefe at 11:15 AM on August 29, 2008


I'm pretty sure they are honoring the Iraq War vets. The concert was either with, or on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against The War.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:34 AM on August 29, 2008


How do you proceed, then?

If your country elects and re-elects a polarizing, warmongering president, then you get ready to deal with the shit storm of out-of-control protests. Our leaders are supposed to govern sensibly to avoid having to worry about setting up fucking Freedom Cages. If they don't, then whatever carnage awaits them at the doors to their mighty towers is earned, I say.
posted by dopamine at 12:02 PM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure they are honoring the Iraq War vets. The concert was either with, or on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against The War.

So? Why are RATM, who supposedly are anti-war and anti-corporate, engaging in such a rite of patriarchy as publicly genuflecting to the so-called nobility of soldiers?
posted by jokeefe at 12:55 PM on August 29, 2008


Okay, just to clarify: this sounds like I'm trolling. Sorry; I don't mean it to. I'm just still trying to understand the American relationship to its armed forces and why it's considered taboo-- even by people who have made their careers through criticizing the powers that be and the military establishment-- to ever express anything other than hero-worship for soldiers and veterans. I mean, it's above and beyond respect and right into a mythologizing rhetoric that is unquestionable and unquestioning.

I just can't imagine, say, Crass standing up at some rally for British veterans and saluting. They might, theoretically, feel anger on behalf of veterans (See "Yes Sir, I Will"), but never this... glorying in submission to the weight of military idealism.
posted by jokeefe at 1:12 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I mean, it's above and beyond respect and right into a mythologizing rhetoric that is unquestionable and unquestioning.

"He's the Universal Soldier and he really is to blame."
(Buffy Saint-Marie)
posted by philip-random at 1:42 PM on August 29, 2008


Well, in this case the soldiers are questioning the war and thus are generally in agreement with RATM on the issue. So I don't find it surprising that they'd salute with them.

But it's true, the general American theme is that while a particular war may be right or wrong, soldiers at the lower levels are not to blame for that. Most people do hold them to blame for things done outside that scope (massacres, etc), although that view is not universal. I guess it's just that very, very few Americans question the need to have a military, so it would be weird to criticize people for serving in it. And, most of us don't want to serve ourselves, which makes us even more grateful that some people do. Regardless of whether we think it should be used as often as it is.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:20 PM on August 29, 2008


“glorying in submission to the weight of military idealism.”

what wildcrdj sed +

I think you’re right. It shouldn’t be “above and beyond respect” into “a mythologizing rhetoric that is unquestionable and unquestioning.”
Any time you see that fawning hero-worship it is, nearly always, self-serving and serving an agenda.
Propping the troops up as heros and trying to alloy them with --whatever- cause. Peace, war, right or left wing - blah blah blah.
Many political agendas are served by deploying troops and, to quote Sun Tzu, those unable to understand the dangers inherent in employing troops are equally unable to understand the advantageous ways of doing so.

So yes, in the U.S. we greatly fetishize our troops as opposed to simply giving them basic respect for going out and doing what we, ostensibly ‘we’, tell them to do.
Disliking the way the troops are used though doesn’t mean you have to like or dislike the troops. They are a tool of the state. And that, essentially, is the job. And why I vehimently oppose a draft. Your job as a warfighter is to do whatever your country tells you to do within the laws of war and certain moral laws.

We do not hold the troops guilty for the entirety of a given war for several reasons, one of which being, they’d be perfectly happy getting paid for sitting on their asses at a base instead of getting shot at.
Also, we can’t ignore the moral culpability we have for sending them into - wherever - in the first place. By definition, they are stripped of the right to make those decisions. They can’t choose where, when and if to fight.

I would argue it is this “military idealism” that those in power, and those who want to be in power, prize so highly. Not the principles for which such sacrifices are made.
Essentially - if you support the troops you should sound off as loudly as possible to the powers that be as to how you want the troops used - or not used.
It is the indifference that kills.

Now I’ll grant - weapons are tools of ill-omen - and indeed, troops are in that category as well. But that is a measure of respect they are not given. And I mean respect in it’s non-red, white and blue bunting, buy-you-a-drink, flag waving, hand shaking, smarmy hugging, pseudo-deification sense. Nor do I mean it in the “I’m scared he’s going to flip out and kill me” sense.
I mean it in the sense that you don’t leave your power saw out in the rain. You don’t stick your hand into it. You use it for the job it’s intended rather than as a universal fix-all sort of tool and going off to try to drive nails with it.
But most especially - you don’t let your asshole neighbor borrow it and never return it just because he tells you he loves it so much and somehow convinces you it’s not really yours anymore.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that anti-war folks would embrace returning troops wholeheartedly. They’re the only ones who can tell you from solid experience why war sucks so bad and why it should be the absolute last resort instead of the corporate playtoy that it’s become. No one comes back from that and says “Oh, boy, I wish I could get back into that hell again, and maybe lose my other leg or get brain damage.”
(Well, a few, but we’ve got our wiring burnt out by adrenaline)

It’s all artificial patriotism (and we all know what Sam Johnson had to say on that - he also said: “It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see publick dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief. But he sounds no alarm, when there is no enemy; he never terrifies his countrymen till he is terrified himself. The patriotism, therefore, may be justly doubted of him, who professes to be disturbed by incredibilities”)

And those fawning over the troops (while they deny them health care) are always the sort who never go and fight themselves, but are more than willing to question the patriotism of those who ideologically disagree with them.

Indeed, the American Protective League comes to mind whenever I see that sort of fetishization. They “love their country” so much they’ll beat the hell out of a pacifist or Joe six pack (at 20 to one odds) for hampering the war effort, but oh no, they’re not going to face bullets themselves. And they “love” the troops the same way the “love” the country.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:20 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, I like Rage, but I kind of soured on them.
Woke up from a sort of nap, slept too long in the late afternoon, that sort of thing. And turned on the T.V. and there’s Steve Forbes staring at me. Which wigged me out.
Then I hear the t.v. people cheering. And I’m trying to figure out WTF is going on. And I realize he’s on SNL.
So I’m ready to slap myself silly to get out of whatever bizarre dreamlike state I’m in.
Then Steve Forbes (!) says “Ladies and gentlemen: Rage Against the Machine” and he ‘presents’ them with his hands.
And they sing “Bulls On Parade” (y’know ‘rally round tha family! With a pocket full of shells”)

So at that point I knew I’d slipped into some crazy alternate dimension.

Kinda like drinking too much of something and getting violently sick on it and get the dry heaves. You’re kind of put off by it.

Kinda how I feel about the whole free speech zone thing and this emphasis of the security state in favor of the exercise of the first amendment (the ‘violently ill’ part, not the ‘kinda put off’ part)
and, nice post
posted by Smedleyman at 3:33 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think as the cops were shoving the protesters in, they (the cops) were growling "get your newsfilter off our fucking front page!"
posted by fleacircus at 4:13 PM on August 29, 2008


Smedleyman! Glad to see you back.
posted by stet at 4:43 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


what wildcrdj sed +

Ugh. My mind tried to parse this as a command-line script.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:55 PM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yes! Hello again Smedleyman.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:57 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish they had come up with an original title rather than riding Hunter's coat tails.

Agreed. The photos are great, but I was expected some exposition.

(nice to see you again, Smedleyman. your contributions have been missed.)
posted by mrgrimm at 5:41 PM on August 29, 2008


Denver cyanide suicide? one pound of cyanide for one guy?
posted by hortense at 6:36 PM on August 29, 2008


If your country elects and re-elects a polarizing, warmongering president, then you get ready to deal with the shit storm of out-of-control protests. Our leaders are supposed to govern sensibly to avoid having to worry about setting up fucking Freedom Cages. If they don't, then whatever carnage awaits them at the doors to their mighty towers is earned, I say.

Somewhere inside, I have to agree, "Indeed."
posted by humannaire at 6:50 PM on August 29, 2008


Do you simply let the various protest groups do whatever they want right up to the doors of the convention?

Well, maybe 50ft away from the doors. But until laws are broken, yes. Yes I do.
posted by regicide is good for you at 7:28 PM on August 29, 2008


Fear & Loathing? Where's the salt shaker full of coke? Where are the flying bats? Why aren't the cops standing in a 2 ft. deep shag carpet soaked in blood?
posted by Lukenlogs at 8:39 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


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