Protesters in Short Supply So Far

Posted August 25, 2008 at 1:16pm

About a dozen protesters trekked to the city-designated “demonstration area” Monday morning planning to complain about their sequestration — but found nobody other than reporters to listen.

Local group Re-create 68 stayed only a few minutes in what they’ve named the “freedom cage,” mostly to talk to the reporters who had followed them. Across the street, about two dozen police officers stood watching.

“This is not a protest zone. This is like a fascist government,” said Holly Heiman of Green Mountain Falls, Co. She pointed to the officers across the street. “How much are they spending on this? How much are they paying each of them every day?”

Denver officials had estimated that some 10,000 protesters would march on the city this week, but so far, only a fraction of that number have showed up, at least in the city’s designated protest zones.

In the months leading up to the convention, local and national groups loudly objected to the protest area, arguing it wasn’t within “sight and sound” of the Pepsi Center. Earlier this month, however, a federal judge ruled that it didn’t violate protesters’ First Amendment rights.

This morning, the area appeared isolated. One lone tent stood in a corner, while the surrounding streets were virtually empty. Two layers of heavy metal fences surrounded three sides of the area, and the Pepsi Center was hardly visible over a large media tent.

“I suppose if we had a periscope, we could see over the media tent,” said Mark Cohen, co-founder of Re-create 68, a group that opposes the two-party system.

The city-designated parade route, open from 11 a.m. to about 3 p.m., was also nearly empty this morning. About 100 protesters were gathered in Denver’s Civic Center Park, but they said they planned to take another route.

City officials have said that delegates will arrive right next to the protest area, but this morning, the most direct route — down Auraria Parkway — was closed. Instead, protesters and others had to take a long walk around the security fences and enter by Seventh Street. The zone is located at Auraria and Seventh.

One surprise visitor to the site was Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) — but he wasn’t there to comment on the conditions. He, like many others, had lost his way in the matrix of security fences.