About two months ago, Jake Green packed up his belongings and said goodbye to Arcata. He’d lived there two years. It was time to move on -- first stop, Denver. While in Arcata, Green was active with Redwood Curtain Antifascist Action. In Denver, he planned to join with Unconventional Denver to prepare for the Democratic National Convention in mid-August.
It was going to be big: Other groups would be there besides Un-D, including one started by another group of Denver activists called Recreate ’68, which, according to a lengthy explanation on the group’s website, is not intended to recreate the 1968 DNC in Chicago -- in which Mayor Richard Daley threw protesters out of parks and police assaulted peaceful protesters, journalists and even nearby residents -- but to recreate "the spirit of mass political participation of the ’60s. To recreate the spirit that will once again force this country to live up to its own professed principles of democracy, equality and human rights."
"Some of the problems we face now are eerily reminiscent of 1968: most obviously, a costly, unpopular and illegal war," says R68’s website. "Others are unique for our time: a faltering economy, a shrinking middle class, a health care crisis, global warming. But one things is true now as it was then: neither of the two major parties is seriously addressing the needs and desires of the majority of the American people, because both are captive to the corporate interests that finance their campaigns."
Green, in the network of groups joining forces, was going to be part of that action.
Meanwhile, as of this Monday, Eureka-based activist Jack Nounnan was still preparing for his own trip to the Denver DNC, with two other activists. Probably they’d leave Tuesday, he said.
Now, you might think Green, Nounnan and the other two are but drops in a flood of activists inundating Denver from our neck of the woods alone. We grow activists the way summer rains grow mushrooms.
Alas, such is not the case. Despite fits of organizing by different local activist outfits throughout the summer, in the end the Humboldt County contingent of protesters making the trip to Denver comprises only seven or eight people, said Nounnan on Monday. It’s not like the anti-WTO action in 1999, when about 150 locals joined tens of thousands of protesters in Seattle streets.
"I think people have gotten disillusioned," Nounnan said. "You can’t accumulate people in the street like in the ’60s, because they’re disillusioned, because they’re spoiled, because consumption has made people want more security, more comfort."
Back in mid-July, things looked promising. Nounnan was busy passing around Bush-Cheney impeachment petitions for the group The World Can’t Wait as well as working on a number of other causes, including advocating for homeless veterans. But then he heard that the group Unconventional Denver -- a Denver anti-DNC group -- was on tour, and he met with them when they got to Arcata. He promised them he’d try to get folks to Denver in August. Meanwhile, he heard about a new local group: Humboldt Against the DNC, whose two founders planned to get a caravan of local activists together to descend on the DNC. A website went up, a founding meeting was set, and fliers proclaimed: "The Democrats... won’t stop the war; end the occupations; abolish prisons; create joyous self-sustaining communities ...but we can."
"They were all for trying to stir up the consciousness here and get people to go," said Nounnan.
It fizzled. There was no caravan. The handful of activists committed to going have ended up traveling to Denver "in spurts," said Nounnan.
From Denver, last Friday, Green reported on the scene so far. About 10,000 protesters in all are anticipated, he said. And although protest organizers have met with Denver city officials frequently over the past year to map out peaceful proceedings, issues keep popping up. The city, for instance, has erected fenced-in "protest zones" that protesters call cages. The city has told one group of organizers, "Tent State University," it can’t camp in City Park -- so, instead, TSU has decided to strike camp at the park at 11 p.m. -- curfew -- and haul their tents and other gear to the official protest zone outside the Pepsi Center, where the DNC will be held Aug. 25-28. The protest zone’s open 24 hours; according to a report from the Rocky Mountain News, the TSU organizers said they will "continue to demonstrate against the Iraq war and then feign sleeping as part of their act of protest."And, the city police have designated a nearby warehouse as a temporary holding center for arrestees during the convention.
Green’s not having any of it. He’s staying with friends, for one. And: "There’s no way in hell I am ever going to get into that cage," he said of the protest zone. "It’s supposed to be the ‘free speech zone’ alloted by the City of Denver to the protesters to express their First Amendment right. I find this to be a farce."
Green said the processing center for arrestees has also caused "a stink." It has been partitioned into five-foot by five-foot wire-cage cells topped with razor wire and without, so Green had heard as of last week, running water or bathrooms.
Since he arrived, Green’s been busy day and night talking to locals and educating them about the reasons for disrupting the DNC -- like how free trade is creating poverty in other countries and stealing solid jobs from this country, he said, and how America’s "two-party system has been nothing but an illusion to solve the problems that the last batch of politicians have created." And how all actions are supposed to be non-violent.
"I’m really impressed by some of the low-risk and high-risk tactics some of the activists have taken on -- none of it violent," he said, without elaborating.
That said, Green admitted he’s a little nervous about what may come when the DNC officially is underway.
"The city has a $50 million budget from the Department of Justice invested in training and weaponry to suppress the activists and our First Amendment right," Green said. "I am afraid. Such is the violence that took place in ’68, displayed by the violent police -- the only way we’ll see that again is if the police recreate those scenarios."