Group seeks common issues among protestors - August 24, 2008
Civic Center – While there is no paucity of opinions wandering through Denver this week for the Democratic National Convention, there aren’t always those who want to take the time to listen.
Protesters wave fliers in front of faces as passers-by wave them off and shrug off attempts to engage them in conversations about human rights abuses, the war, the economy or anything else.
But then there are the people in the bright pink shirts. They are there to listen. Even their shirts say so.
The group, called “The World is Listening,” is out to gather the issues most important to people and share them online at http://www.worldislistening.blogspot.com. It’s an attempt to show those standing on opposite sides of the street that what they want isn’t so different after all.
Francisco Subiadur was standing on the corner talking with protesters and scribbling notes in a small black notebook. The front of his shirt asked, “What is your Vision,” the back told people “i am here to listen.”
“We’re not contradicting anyone,” he said. “We’re listening to what they have to say.”
Here are some of the things people have said are important to them:
Being a kindhearted human race;
Promoting human rights;
Protecting the environment;
Equality and prosperity;
Improved world health;
More abortion control;
More money for education;
Stop the preaching and discrimination;
Kindness and love;
A day when we don’t need soldiers.
The last is from someone on the pro-military protest side of the street. Many of the ideas overlapped no matter what people were protesting, said Stephanie Phibbs, who also was circulating with pink shirt and notebook.
She said she tells groups they have similar visions and people often respond that they will get to those visions in different ways, she said. But, “a sense of unity and oneness is emerging,” she said.
Tensions flare briefly as anarchists block 16th Street Mall buses, tangle with cops - August 25, 2008
Protesters shouted, sang, danced, chanted, partied, meditated - and even shopped - Sunday in what was generally a peaceful show of diversity.
But a few skirmishes with police left no question that any infraction would be met with a serious show of force.
After a day in which thousands protested everything from the war in Iraq to the need for more love and kindness in the world, there were reports of only two arrests - both for protesters giving false information to officers.
Meanwhile, tension ignited between police and protesters only briefly when a group of anarchists, some wearing bandannas over their faces to conceal their identities, blocked shuttle buses on the 16th Street Mall and later amassed on Broadway between Colfax Avenue and 14th Ave.
Their actions prompted a sea of black uniforms to swarm on each situation and quickly disperse the crowds. The anarchists later snaked their way through downtown, meeting a large police presence at Stout and 15th streets.
The display of force did little to dampen the group's enthusiasm. In fact, considering the cause, it only added to it.
"It was a street party," said Tim Simons, organizer of the anarchist group dubbed Unconventional Denver. "That's what we did today. . . . Our goal was to keep the party in the street, to make sure we weren't confined to permit areas and to make sure that the energy and the noise and the spirit of social movement was felt throughout downtown and couldn't be missed. . . . We accomplished what we wanted."
Simons noted that his group's goal is to "highlight the power of grass-roots movements as a real force for society."
War and peace
His wasn't the only group flexing its grass-roots chops. Throughout the day, members of all kinds of organizations roamed downtown - some even stopping to shop at carts along the 16th Street Mall.
They were colorful - and contradictory: Anti-war groups faced off with troop supporters; anarchists shared real estate with women peacemakers supporting "joy and humor."
One of the first events of the day was an anti-war rally at the state Capitol. Mother-turned-activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in the Iraq war, addressed a group of around 200, exhorting onlookers to oppose war.
"Three years ago today, we were sweltering in Crawford, Texas, camping outside George Bush's ranch," she said. "Three years later, our country is still mired in the Middle East. They're talking about more war."
Sheehan, who spoke for about six minutes, urged protesters to make their voices heard.
When the activist finished, she received rock star treatment, with people swarming around her to shake her hand or take her picture. The group then marched down Colfax, passing a cluster of pro-troop demonstrators on the side of the road. As the anti-war protesters walked by, their signs seemed to shout at each other.
"Who Would Jesus Bomb?" read one. "Land of the Free, Because of the Brave," read another, as if in retort.
Some just listening
Many of the protests centered on war, but one group sat in a circle, eyes closed as they performed meditative excercises in support of the Falun Gong, a spiritual group that has been persecuted in China.
Another group, calling themselves The World Is Listening, showed up to support, well, listening. "We are not contradicting anyone," Francisco Subiadur said. "We're listening to what they have to say."
Among the ideas they listened to others express? The importance of being kindhearted and protecting the environment, and a longing for the day when soldiers would no longer be needed.
Obviously unaware of all the ideas swirling around her downtown, member Stephanie Phibbs noted that "a sense of unity and oneness is emerging."
A sense of ennui seemed to be the only thing emerging at the area set up outside the Pepsi Center for protesters, dubbed the "Freedom Cage." It remained empty all Sunday afternoon.
At night, the action picked up - slightly. While protesters with Tent State, an anti-war group, planned for thousands to march from City of Cuernavaca Park to spend the night in the protest zone, only three protesters - and three reporters - had made their way to the area by 11 p.m.
The small group was entertained by Dead Kennedys' singer Jello Biafra, who delivered a 30-second history on the spoken word.
* Staff writers Allison Bruce, Daniel J. Chacon, Abigail Curtis, Jeff Kass, Dan Kelley, Sue Lindsay, Steve Myers, Ashleigh Oldland and Judi Villa contributed to this report.