Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome to Denver

The Democratic National Convention has officially begun today, Monday the 25th of August.

My film crew and I drove to Denver from Seattle for 27 straight hours. On Friday night my hosts and hostesses watched the biggest hip hop show Denver had ever seen, featuring Dead Prez, Wu Tang Clan and others. The city is loading up with delegates, media, activists, anarchists, politicians, and employing thousands of others by extension. Many of the hip hop artists as well as the Flobots, Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, Michael Fronti and others are providing a free concert for the activist crowd tomorrow night.

The $50 million in Federal money which paid for the police presence here is most certainly going to waste. Friday night as I walked through the 16th St. Mall area, police quarantined 4 to 5 city blocks and called in a bomb squad to explode some cardboard boxes. This took about two and half precious hours of nightlife time. Meanwhile the citizens of Denver seem fairly angry that their city has become entirely militarized, where SUVs carrying a dozen riot cops who stand on the side of the vehicle are driving through the city on a regular basis, and Wackenhut private security guards (who work for Homeland Security's ICE branch) are wandering everywhere, questioning and staring at people.

Not all people of Denver are against the massive police presence. Yesterday I filmed as a march called "Reclaim the Streets" (to have a dance party in the streets of Denver) took over a number of intersections near the capitol building. The riot police pushed everyone off the street and arrested a couple of people. I spoke to a woman standing next to me about the police. She, like many others, assume that whatever the police decide to enforce is ipso facto the law. So if police decide to hit people with batons, then the protesters obviously deserved it, etc.

Reclaim the Streets is a nonviolent act of resistance, resisting the complacency of spectatorship and actually becoming involved in a counter-spectacle yourself. This is my theoretical interpretation, but I think it suffices. Most people, who live their lives in obedience to the controlling mechanisms of cultural norms in the media and the cultural superstructure, are more likely to stare at such a spectacle in disbelief and not participate.

At the same time it seems that many people would like to participate, but the police force is an intimidating factor. And the marchers themselves do sometimes move rather fast, which does not give spectators enough time to decide whether to jump in or not.

At any rate, the Spectacle has just begun and I will be talking more about tactics and posting videos soon.

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