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August 26, 2008

Protest fun and wackiness [Alice H]

Morning everyone!

A list of questions from Gabriel was sitting in my inbox this morning. It was a very helpful way to organize my thoughts. I'm not fully caffeinated while answering these, so if I'm incoherent, blame that.

Update [Gabe]: Thanks for the report, Alice.

Alice is twittering her adventures. Her YouTube channel including waterboarding demonstrations from yesterday. Her latest set of photos has ninjas, police, and amateurish graffiti.

Her report continues below the fold:


1. How do you choose what events you go to?
Most of the protest groups published their planned events online. I went through the schedules and made a list of what events were within a reasonable walking distance of downtown, and seemed likely to generate a reasonable amount of traffic. I know there's no way I'm getting in to the convention center. I made a decision fairly early on to avoid bringing a car downtown, partially because my gas-guzzling SUV still has a Fred Thompson bumper sticker on it and I wanted my vehicle to stay intact, and partially because I wanted to resist the temptation to hop in my car and go places, which would give someone a license plate to track. Most of the events are centered around Civic Center Park, the south end of which is in the live feed Ace posted last night.

2. How are you dressing? Are you blending in or making a clear distinction between you and the marchers and protesters?
Everything I'm wearing is from my normal wardrobe, heh. Most of my clothes are very casual anyway, and I've got some fairly granola items in my collection. I'm not clearly distinct, but if someone were watching fairly closely they might be able to figure out that I don't quite match. I don't quite match my normal appearance either - there are some changes I made to my usual dress for comfort and safety purposes that I'm not going to disclose in the interest of staying somewhat anonymous. If I were trying to blend in, there have been some requests to show up dressed certain ways for certain events that I haven't followed. For instance, it was asked that people show up in black hoodies and jeans for the 'Everything for Everyone' march last night to show solidarity, and I didn't do that. I'm also not running around with a bandanna over my face - I consider that an invitation for trouble.

3. Are there many people there who can clearly be seen to be there to take pictures and video like you? Does it make a difference in your interactions with the police?

4. Speaking of, have you had much interaction with the police?
There is at least one clearly marked documentary crew, and many many people there that are taking pictures and videos. How many there are solely there to document, I don't know. I can't say whether it's made a difference with the police; overall they've been friendly regardless of whether someone has a camera in their hand. They're pretty good about smiling for the cameras :D I haven't had much direct interaction, since I'm trying to stay off the front line of protesters. I have no objections to how the police have behaved so far - they have remained calm and cool, have not responded to provocations inappropriately, and have been friendly and helpful when asked for directions or to pose for photos with people in 'Don't snitch' shirts. I know it must be scary for them - a large majority of the protesters are masked with bandannas, everyone has bags with unknown contents, and hundreds of cameras are around to record any perceived misstep. As far as I can tell, the only time people are being sprayed are when they charge the police line. People were walking right up to the police and yelling in their faces, and many of them are not being sprayed. 'Police state', indeed.

I can tell you this - from some of the pictures Zombie has published, I'm pretty sure we've been within arms reach of each other.

5. How did you get stuck in the riot yesterday? (Is it fair to characterize it as a riot?) Were you very close to the misbehaving protesters? How long were you stuck?
I wouldn't call it a riot. Frankly, there was more violence in riots at the high school I attended than I saw last night. I was on the front row of the sidewalk during the confrontation with the police in front of the city/county building, and was up on a ramp running along the side of a building when everyone got stuck. The police were trying to move us off the ramp and out when things heated up, and we were stuck for about an hour. I was on top of some sort of raised grate during the standoff, and had a pretty good view of the goings-on. At that point, I was about five rows back from the front line. The people being gassed were on the front line, and there weren't many that actually got hit with the gas badly enough to need medical attention. There are medics that are part of the protests throughout the crowd - I have no idea if they are real medical personnel or if they just know how to handle your typical protest injuries - but they seem well-versed in how to handle pepper spray. I got some whiffs of spray last night, but only enough to warn me that people were being sprayed, not enough to be more than a little uncomfortable. The police seemed mostly concerned with keeping the marchers away from the 16th Street Mall, which I think was wise - lots of shops with glass windows, lots of outdoor dining, lots of delegates and everyday joes unaware of what would be raining down on them.

There were a few questions posted on Twitter while I was posting last night, this seems like a good place to address them.

No, I can't see what people are twittering about. I'm pretty much in an information vacuum there.

No, I have no press credentials - wearing press credentials means wearing my name on the front of my shirt, and I'm trying to avoid being personally identified.

And HELL no, I'm not walking up to the police and asking to be released - walking up to the police means ending up on the front line, possibly being mistaken for charging the police line and getting gassed, calling attention to myself, etc. I was a few rows back from the protest organizers, who I've had a few direct interactions with, and I don't want to call attention to myself by buddying up to the police in the middle of a standoff.

If someone has an urgent question or information, Gabriel, Ace, doubleplusundead among others know how to reach me directly - but please think about what you're sending them long and hard before you actually bother them with it. I haven't felt in direct physical danger during the protests, so I can't think of a good reason to identify myself to the police.

6. The legacy media has done a very poor job covering the activities outside of the convention center. Could you maybe give us folks who aren't there a better idea of what's going on in the streets of Denver? Is it just a lot of people wandering around in semi-organized groups or is there more organization than that?
It's more organized, as organized as you'd expect from the type of protesters that are running the thing, anyway. Everything's centered around a few locations - Civic Center Park, the Capitol Steps, Skyline, Lincoln, and Cuernavaca parks. In a way, I'm glad the traditional media is largely gone - some of their cameramen are jerks.

7. I haven't heard anything much about the "freedom cage" since Sunday morning. Do you know of any activities going on over there? I think I read on your twitter that some delegates accidentally got stuck there. Hopefully not for too long, right?
No one's protesting at the Freedom Cage. It's a pretty good walk from Civic Center Park, between many fences blocking access to the college campuses, and it's isolated enough that there will be no observing protests in the cage from outside the cage. There's large media tent between the Freedom Cage and the Pepsi Center, so the delegates wouldn't be able to see the protesters there. There's a small (maybe four or six inches) raised platform with no sound system for one speaker at a time, while the Civic Center amphitheater is wired for sound, a short walk from the Capitol steps so there's the impression that one could be 'heard', with easy open-air viewing and places for the audience to sit.

8. Is there anything else you want to tell AOSHQ readers?
I'm out of glib, heh. If anything is proving that we do not live in a police state, the way the demonstrations are being handled should show it. Hopefully someday at least some of the protesters will recognize that.

My tune may change if the police show up on my doorstep to question me later, heh.

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posted by xgenghisx at 09:25 AM

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