(Denver) Today, thousands of activists from across the country rallied at the State Capitol and marched through the streets of Denver to kick off a week of protests during the Democratic National Convention.
The March to End All Occupations at Home and Abroad (see photos below) drew activists from Los Angeles, New York, Florida, Maine, Chicago, many driving overnight to attend the march and rally.
In keeping with the theme of the rally, a lineup of multinational speakers linked the war in Iraq to the occupations of Afghanistan and Palestine and to Washington’s campaign of sanctions and threats against Iran; they also connected the struggle against the war in Iraq with the many struggles at home, including the foreclosure and eviction crisis, draconian budget cuts, the occupation of oppressed communities by police, the continued fight for justice for survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the racist raids and detentions targeting immigrant workers, and the theft of Indigenous land.
The rally, which drew a considerable number of youth, opened with music performance by David Rovic.
Glenn Spagnuolo of Recreate 68 emceed the rally on the steps of the State Capitol. He said that the campaign of intimidation by police and the media had failed, and he saluted the courage and determination of those who had come to Denver for the week of protest.
Mark Cohen, a long-time Denver activist and one of the founding members of Recreate 68, opened the rally with a description of the origins of the Alliance, and outlined their vision for a week of independent struggle and resistance.
Larry Hales, of the Recreate 68 Alliance and the youth group FIST (Fight Imperialism Stand Together), spoke of the right to self determination and self defense. He called on the progressive and antiwar community to stand in unconditional solidarity with the struggles of all oppressed people, from the inner cities to the Middle East.
Congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan, who is challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sheehan denounced the Democratic Party’s complicity in the war in Iraq. She also warned against new U.S. military actions in Georgia and Russia.
Larry Holmes, a national leader of the Troops Out Now Coalition, congratulated Recreate 68 on organizing a successful demonstration despite challenges presented by opposition from the police, the media, and various political forces. Holmes celebrated the call to “Recreate 68,” saying that we need to recreate the spirit of militant struggle. He noted that U.S. wars abroad and the growing crisis at home have created the necessity to recreate such a movement.
Cynthia McKinney, former member of the House of Representatives from Georgia and current Green Party presidential candidate, spoke of the continuing neglect faced by survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. McKinney denounced the ongoing erosion of civil liberties, noting the Democratic Party’s complicity in passing FISA legislation.
Kathleen Cleaver, former Black Panther, addressed the misuse of the term “terrorism” by the Bush administration, saying that African-American communities have been victims of terrorism for more than 400 years.
Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee drew paralells between U.S. war crimes abroad and police abuses at home. He called attention to the fact that the torturers at Abu Ghraib were formerly guards at the prison where Mumia Abu-Jamal is held. Hampton, whose father was killed by a police hit squad, spoke of the ongoing torture scandal involving Chicago police. He noted that the politicians running Chicago today are part of the same machine that were responsible for the murder of his father.
Ward Churchill, long-time activist, author, and scholar denounced the theft of Native Lands, linking this to the U.S. drive to steal the land and resources of the people of the Middle East.
Ida Audeh, a Palestinian refugee, described the horrific conditions faced by the people of Gaza, where the Israeli blockade is causing a massive humanitarian crisis. Audeh discussed the continued persecution of Arab and Muslim people, including the case of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Florida professor who is being held in solitary confinement despite having been cleared trumped-up charges.
Ron Kovic, Vietnam veteran and author of “Born on the Fourth of July,” told the crowd that when he had lost use of three quarters of his body he was told that it had been for the cause of freedom, but instead, civil liberties are being taken away by the FISA legislation, the Patriot Act, and other illegal actions of the Bush administration. Kovic, who has been in a wheelchair for forty years, said, “I’ll be damned if I let another young person be sent to war and come home like this.”
Dead Prez, well known activists and hip hop performers, closed the rally, introduced by Green Party Vice Presidential Candidate Rosa Clemente, a long-time anti-police brutality leader who spoke of the power of hip hop as an organizing and educational tool.
The spirited march through the streets of Denver confronted the massive police presence at several turns, insisting on the right to march to the Pepsi Center, site of the Democratic National Convention. Several groups of onlookers, in town for the convention, joined the march as it passed by.
The march included a strong contingent in opposition to a war against Iran. Activists from the Stop War On Iran Campaign distributed broadsheets promoting a September 27 National Day of Action. (see www.StopWarOnIran.org for details)
When the protesters reached the Pepsi Center, they faced off with police in riot gear, armed with automatic rifles. The convention site was surrounded with giant steel fences and barriers. Marchers refused to be intimidated, chanting “We will not be silenced.” According press reports, 1500 protesters then blocked one of the entrances, holding the street for well over forty-five minutes.
in addition to confronting police and the democratic party, protesters also faced down a small group of right wing extremists who had assembled near the rally site. Activists are also mobilizing all week to defend women’s health clinics against anti-choice bigots.
Actions during the week include (from the Recreate 68 website):
Sunday – End All Occupations at Home and Abroad
Monday – Human Rights/Free All Political Prisoners
Tuesday – No Racism/Imperialism
Wednesday – No Warming
Thursday – No Borders
The Troops Out Now Coalition will be in the streets all week- check this blog for updates and to find out how you can get involved. Following a week of non-stop mobilizing in Denver, we will be heading to St. Paul to confront the other war party at the Republican National Convention.
Both Conventions are sponsored by major coporations, including AT&T, Lockheed-Martin, Citigroup, and many more. We need to be there to help make sure that issues that affect working people are raised – issues that the big corporations want to ignore. We need your help to do this -please consider making a donation online to help us stay in the streets. go to http://troopsoutnow.org/donate.shtml