The mood at the DNC protest has turned around completely from what it felt like the entire week.
At 11:00 AM this morning I received a text message from Olympia activists that the Convergence Center (where Recreate ’68 and Unconventional Denver plan their actions) was being raided by riot police. Three people were arrested, one from the Tacoma Pitchpipe Infoshop, and the police confiscated painting supplies and banner material. It was a very low blow to the resistance here in Denver. Riot police surrounded the building, but failed to eventually come up with a warrant that would allow them to raid the building and make mass arrests.
But by 5:00 PM the general mood was entirely uplifted. After Rage Against the Machine, The Coup and Flobots and Jello Biafra performed at a concert hosting thousands, a march led by Iraq Veterans Against the War converged at the Pepsi Convention Center (where the Democrats are).
IVAW’s plan was to either get inside the DNC or get Barack Obama to come out and negotiate with them. About 50 to 75 Iraq vets and thousands of supporters marched around the Pepsi building. Police brought out three big cranes and some armored trucks to shoot protesters from. Hundreds of people started masking up their faces and dipping rags in apple cider vinegar in case they were shot at. The IVAW members, at the front of the march, (some masked as well) were prepared to get across the police line if nobody from the DNC was going to negotiate with the thousands of people outside.
None of the civilian activists were going to do anything to engage the DNC or the riot police unless the Iraq vets did so first. The wave of supporters, standing behind the vets, were ready to absorb whatever was about to happen, whether a failure or success.
An hour went by standing at the gates. Riot police flanked the protest and were closing in from all sides. Just when it seemed the evening was going to end in tear gas and violent beatings, an IVAW negotiator came from the behind the police line and announced that Barack Obama had agreed to negotiate IVAW on their Iraq exit strategy and platform.
Everyone cheered. Hundreds of fists and peace signs went up in the air.
I wasn’t sure whether this was a victory or not. I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I still don’t. But as the people kept shouting and cheering, it was clear that this was settling in as a victory for the anti-war movement.
I don’t think many activists and protesters are used to feeling like they had been a part of something that feels victorious to them. We are not used to politicians meeting with us on our terms, nor on their terms. To be able to celebrate a victory that could just as easily have been a slugfest is something that was deeply desired for this movement.
Looking at this a bit pessimistically, however, the victory is that a politician who is supposed to represent the people agreed to talk to the people. He agreed to talk to the Left at a time when his party is clearly pandering further and further to the Right. This is bold on his part, but relatively unsatisfying to all of us. Obama will meet some time within the next few (hours? days?) with IVAW: that is what the victory was. It was the power of the people. The second part of the victory was the overall coordination and strategy of the protest, which is something we can all be proud of. Even though Obama’s words and rhetoric may mean very little in the long run, it was evidence of organized, coordinated efforts on behalf of all the people there.
UPDATE: nothing seemed to come out of IVAW’s “meeting” with Obama. IVAW members told me there was a short meeting with about 4 of 5 veterans and someone from the DNC. This was bullshit meeting, what is going to change from it? We need to stop listening to their bullshit rhetoric and their bullshit communications representatives. Fuck the Democrats!