This is a research paper I wrote in 2008 before the Democratic Convention. The paper was about the expected violence and what the city and police were doing to prepare. I suspcet the riot gear worn for the George Floyd riots is the gear purchased for the 2008 Democratic Convention. What I learned from this paper was: 1) you cannot predict the future. No riots occured. And, 2) the personal responsible to hold the convention moved up the political and the city employement ladder, some eventually going on to Washington in the Obama administration.
Sokolowski Unit 10 Final Draft Research Essay
What event could be bigger?
What event could be bigger than the Super Bowl, the World Series, or Soccer’s World Cup? In Denver, this August, it will be the Democratic National Convention (DNC). The Pepsi Center will host the convention for five consecutive nights. Democrats will nominate their candidate for this fall’s Presidential Election. The Republican Convention will be in Saint Paul, Minnesota the following week. But, the spot light will be here, first, on Denver. The Democratic candidate will draw the press and the interest of the world.
Politicians and business leaders were ecstatic to nab the convention. The Democratic Convention promises to be a windfall for Denver financially, politically and socially. Denver will see the nation swoop down on the city like never before. This is going to be big. If you are a downtown Denver worker, because of planned demonstrations, it would be best not to go to work the week of August 23-28. Many people won’t have a choice, they must work. Some will be attending the events. Some will be demonstrating. If you can, avoid the hoopla and avoid chaos.
How big is this going to get?
The convention is going to take a lot of work by the Democratic National Convention Host Committee. This group, headed by Mike Dino, is going to be responsible for remodeling the Pepsi Center, directing large crowds, and balancing activities to make the convention a success.
The DNC Host Committee needs to make this event the Super Bowl, the World Series and the World Cup wrapped up into the biggest convention event Denver has ever experienced. Denver’s reputation is at stake. Denver has already hosted the Pope, The Summit of Eight, Gran Prix auto racing and the World Series. This is going to be bigger for one reason focus. The focus of the nation will be on Denver for this event.
The Pepsi Center, maybe not big enough?
To get things rolling, the city had to work together with the largest indoor event center in the city. The DNC Host Committee needed the Pepsi Cneter as the main convention site. ThePepsi Center is owned by Stanley Kroenke. Who also owns numerous Denver sports teams. Mayor Hickenlopper sees the cooperation of the Democrats and Mr. Kroenke, a Republican, “…a unique spirit of collaboration” (Healy). And, you have to credit Mr. Kroenke for civic support. He has given $15 million back to the community through contributions from the Nuggets and Avalanche charitable organizations (Denver Nuggets). The DNC Host Committee needs to make major renovations to the Pepsi Center for the convention. This work starts on July seventh and runs till the convention. Then, the renovations have to be reversed in time forpreseason hockey games. Lots of work, lots of cooperation. But, there may be trouble in the air.
Union labor is required per contracts with the Pepsi Center and the Democrats. The Pepsi Center, a non-union venue is bringing in union labor to do the remodeling. The unions have the power to disrupt the convention schedule. James Hoffa Jr. told governor Bill Ritter in April 2007, just after Denver was awarded the convention: “the [labor] issue could “blow up”(Plunkett). Since work on the Pepsi Center has barely begun as of this writing, there isn’t any guarantee of a smooth construction schedule. Numerous other downtown construction projects are taking place in Denver. Denver city government is coordinating projects so there are no major disruptions during the convention such as utility work that forces a street closure.
Hosting the DNC has all the trimmings of a major sporting event. All this preparation will take its toll on normal traffic around the Pepsi Center. But, that has been managed before. Denver hosted the Denver Grand Prix more than once on the 45 acre grounds of the Pepsi Center. The race, in its best year, attracted almost 150,000 spectators over the three-day event. During the convention 100 production trucks will be in place, on the Pepsi Center grounds, for media workspace. In addition, a 220,000 square foot media center in the parking lot will be erected (a football field is 58,000 square feet). On 15th Street and Wynkoop there will be a “New Media” center for blogers and other types of “new” media. The press core arriving in Denver will make up a third of the incoming population to the convention. All this construction and traffic will have some effect on Denver, even before the convention begins. The scope of the project is taking shape. Media, politics, and protesters, a formula for a lively week in Denver.
Let’s look at some statistics. The Pepsi Center, depending on configuration, can hold 20,000 people. The city expects 35,000 people for the convention. The Convention expects 15,000 members of the press(Denver2008). Estimates for the number of demonstrator vary, on the low side, 10,000. Some protest groups hope it’s as high as 25,000. Needing a support staff for the convention, the DNC asked for volunteers. They have, as of this writing 21,000 volunteers (Denver2008). The police presence will be approximately twenty-four hundred officers. Police from neighboring communities will help with duties. This equals far more visitors to Denver than will fit in the Pepsi Center at one time.
The Convention will be held between 4:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M. each day. Times that allow the networks to broadcast live to both coasts. The demonstrators will be in a designated parade route between 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.. The law enforcement will be watching the demonstrators. This leaves a lot of people on the streets of Denver to find some way of entertaining themselves. Late in the week there maybe another venue to police. The latest speculation is that Invesco Field may be used for the candidate’s acceptance speech. This shifts a lot of the logistics to another location. And another preseason sports event may come into play. The Broncos play a preseason game Friday, August 22. That gives security a short time to work with the proposed new speech site. Since Invesco Field is an open air stadium, weather may become a concern.
Downtown should be big enough.
Denver boasts the tenth largest downtown in area of the nation (Denver2008). During the last political convention, in 1908, Denver had lots of events to entertain the delegates. Snow was brought down from the mountains in July to please the visitors. Bands played continuously downtown. The convention this year, like 100 years ago, has a candidate that is a shoe in for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. This leaves time for the delegates to get away from the convention and enjoy the city and surrounding areas. They won’t be involved in heated political debates trying to choose who will represent them in the fall elections. In 1908 the city brought a group of Arapaho Indians to town and allowed them to camp at City Park (Goodstein 114). This was to entertain the delegates and visitors. The tradition of entertaining the visitors will continue in 2008. And, like 1908, some organizations are also hoping they are allowed to camp at City Park. The hotels downtown will be filled. The Democtrats have taken 17,000 rooms of the 38,000 avalible in metro Denver. The 7800 within walking distance of the Pepsi Center are taken (Denver2008). The lack of availability of Downtown hotel rooms means Denver will be packed full of people. Unlike baseball games, they won’t be traveling back to the suburbs after the events, they are staying downtown.
This influx will start before the official start of the convention. Delegate parties scheduled for the day before the convention has been reduced from 24, to just one large party. This will be the beginning of the events that welcomes 232 members of Congress, 28 governors and 51 Senators to Denver (Denver2008). It will be a political celebrity show never before seen in Denver. Many of these stars of government will most certainly be spending some time exploring Denver. Downtown visitors will be witnessing a virtual parade of celebrities on the 16th Mall. Even Though the Pepsi Center is within walking distance from many hotels, buses will be transporting people to the Pepsi Center. Delegates and invited guests will funnel in from buses, via a private entrance to the Pepsi Center that will not be accessible to outsiders.
To keep the guest entertained, the city is offering numerous events during the convention. The Five Points Jazz Festival runs August 23-29th. There will be art exhibits around town. The Denver Art Museum will have a free day, Monday, during the convention. There will be an exhibit on Presidential memorabilia at Invesco Field. These events are in place to show the city in its best light and to entertain. But, there is another side of the coin.
Many groups are planning to demonstrate during the convention. The demonstrations planned are not just protests, although the protesters are getting the press. Democrats and other groups trying to raise awareness for their causes will be marching. Any political event will bring out protesters. The Democratic National Convention will be no exception. How protest events are organized is a subject of study by itself. I remember crossing the campus of Wayne State University, in Detroit, during a Viet Nam protest. It had to have taken a lot of work to organize. A stage, loud speakers, microphones, electricity, and the keynote speakers all came together to disrupt a normal day at school. Within the year I would have a low draft number and an appointment for a draft physical. Looking back, I often wonder, should I have stayed and joined the protest? Would one more person have made a difference? I agreed with the protests, but I scurried to get to class. Those protests were different, then. There was one cause, Viet Nam. Protesters planning to march in Denver this August, seem unfocused.
Groups planning demonstrations in Denver at the DNC are concerned about their First Amendment right of free speech. They contend that if they can’t physically be heard or seen by people entering the Pepsi Center their rights are being violated (Davis). They are more concerned about their volume and visibility than their message. The area for the demonstrators will be 700 feet (the length of two football fields) from the entrance to the Pepsi Center. The times that the demonstrators are allowed to march to the protest zone, an acre plot, approximately 4/5 the size of a football field, is 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Since the convention starts at 4:00 P.M. the time the demonstrators could be heard by the delegates is quite limited. This could produce frustration on the part of the demonstrators. A crowd willing to march but their message out of ear shot, could get rowdy. And, even if their message could physically be heard at the entrance to the Pepsi Center, it seems it would be at the wrong time. They march till 3:00 P.M., the convention starts at 4:00 P.M.
Growing up, there was never a more boring week for a kid addicted to television, than the week the political conventions were held. Poor quality pictures in black and white, endless analysis, and ultra boring political speeches made me think that’s what television was like behind the iron curtain, the political focus of the time. The television audience will now be saved from the bore of the political conventions. Live coverage will only be one hour a night. Unless, according to CBS spokes woman Sandy Genelius, “Reports of potentially nasty demonstrations in Denver could take the networks out of their “hour-a-night” mode.”(Saunders). Turns out, ironically, the only way Rush Limbaugh’s arch enemies, the Democrats, will get air time is if his “dream” comes true and there are riots at the convention (Limbaugh).
Today, organizing is made much easier than in the ‘60’s. There is the Internet. Organizing can be done online. Protest groups have the power of mass communication at their finger tips. Denver, this August, is a location for the power of protest linked to the power of the computer. Denver is a physical location for an anomaly that has been created online. This anomaly, the protest, is part of the political process. Protest groups are lined up to march to the Pepsi Center to get their message in the public eye. Groups are registered to march starting at 11:00 A.M. each day of the convention. The groups will march down a designated parade route on Colfax to Speer and to the Pepsi Center parking lot. By containing the groups, the City and police hope they are peaceful. Traffic will be affected part of Colfax and part of Speer will be closed, two main streets in downtown.
In the building downtown, where my wife works, building management had a meeting addressing issues about the DNC. It was suggested to stagger starting and quitting times during the DNC. This, it is hoped, will mitigate traffic. Casual clothes are suggested. In case you need to take some sort of “action”, business attire might be restrictive (Independence). Some companies in the building expressed their plans to close during the convention, to avoid the chance of problems altogether. The city is also preparing. No one knows where all this is going, but everyone wants to be prepared. Denver police purchased “less than lethal” firearms that shoot pepper balls as crowd control(Erin). Protest web sites make mention of everything from peaceful protests to anarchy(Counter-Convention). The Mayor has issued a press release this week advising that the city shouldn’t be severely impacted (Cobb). But, there is indications it won’t be, “business as usual” during the convention.
No one can be sure of the number of protesters. Estimates range from 10,000 to internet protest sites asking for 25,000 protesters to come to Denver. It’s summer, the weather is mild and people can camp out or sleep out without protection. The organization, Tent City, is planning to use City Park as their base. It’s legal to pitch a tent in City Park. However, it’s illegal to camp in the park or be there after 11:00 P.M. If people travel to Denver with the intention of camping in one of the parks, will the police enforce the rules? In 1908 they let the Arapaho Indians stay in City Park (Goodstein 114). They were a novelty for the convention. This time, there will be a large number of people. They are not a novelty and facilities for a large number of campers would be an expense the city would end up absorbing. So the protesters are seeking their rights, they have their parade route, they hope to camp at City Park, but what is their message?
On July 20 there is a scheduled meeting on Auraria Campus in the Tivoli building “regarding activities planned” for the DNC (Come). The meeting is planned by a group called “Come Up to Denver”. The web site is linked to the group, Recreat68. The City of Denver is providing in-kind contributions to the Democrats. But these are groups that are spurring Denver Police to buy “non-lethal weapons” to protect against out of hand protesters (Erin). Yet these groups are meeting in the college student union. Are they planning legitimate reasons to exercise their right of free speech? From the requests on their web page for participants, it sounds as if they are exercising their right to have free speech but don’t know what they want to protest just yet. They are meeting to discuss: “… issues of peace, human rights, ending oppression, environmental justice, poverty and civil liberties” (Come). The price of oil, possible recession and the war are important issues right now. Their focus seems fragmented. It seems they are protesting for protesting sake. They are here just to be disruptive (Counter-convention).
Organizers will be taking advantage of another forum unavailable to political activists in the ‘60’s is another product of the internet. Craigslist, free classified advertising for merchandise and services, will affect the convention. I searched Craigslist and found a few references to the DNC. These were mostly for housing. I suspect this will be the weapon of choice, for protestors to organize, as the convention nears. Numbers and organization make an effective protest. Craigslist has the power to organize and communicate.
Walk softly, and carry a big stick.
Denver has to take this advice from the Republican candidate that won the 1908 election. There will be an electrified atmosphere in downtown Denver this August. It will start soon and build until August. If you are a downtown worker, and there are alternatives to spending four days in August in Downtown, take them. The events in Downtown are for the Delegates and the Democrats. Let them enjoy the political event of this century in Denver. They want to see Denver and enjoy Denver. I think we can enjoy Denver when they leave and take the their trouble makers with them. Between now and then, see if you can convince the boss you need a few days of rest and relaxation, and put in a request for vacation.
Cobb, Sue “City of Denver Announces Designated Parade Route for Use During the
Democratic National Convention” 12 June 2008. Mayor’s office press release 6 July 2008
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Erin, Rosa “Police stocking up on ‘non-lethal’ rifles before DNC” 19 June 2008 The Colorado
Independent 6 July 2008 http://coloradoindependent.com/view/police-stocking-up
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1904-1920: The Mile High City in the Progressive. Denver: New Social Publications, 2004
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Limbaugh, Rush. The Rush Limbaugh Show KOA, Denver 23 April 2008. Transcript. 18 June
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MountainNews 2008 6 July 2008