- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2008

DENVER | The list of grievances protesters hauled up the steps of the state Capitol on Sunday wouldn’t fit on any one placard.

The United States‘ invasion of Iraq is part of a bigger agenda of occupation and imperialism across the globe, according to the assembled protesters drawn together by an alliance of activists calling themselves Recreate 68 in reference to the protests outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

The Democrats kick off their 2008 convention here Monday.

The Iraq war issue clearly led the way, but a gaggle of speakers chastised U.S. foreign policies past and present, spoke about being oppressed for speaking their minds and charged the country with ignoring minorities. Several speakers referred to police officers as pigs, but the crowd kept to its nonviolent roots.

Police ringed the streets around Denver’s Capitol just in case. Many stood silently under a massive tree to keep cool.

A who’s who of antiwar speakers addressed the crowd under a blazing Denver sun, including “Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan who declared: “We need to bring our troops back from all foreign occupations.”

The crowd couldn’t match the size, or enthusiasm, of those long-ago anti-Vietnam war rallies, and some speakers struggled to keep the crowd’s interest. But most did their best to invoke the turbulent ‘60s, imploring people to lift their clenched fists skyward as a sign of power.

Chants like “Burn it down” and “Power to the People” spiked the crowd’s energy level.

Numerous signs called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Others read “One Nation Under Surveillance” and “No War with Iran.”

Crowd favorite Cynthia A. Mc Kinney, the former Democratic congresswoman from Georgia now running for the presidency on the Green Party ticket, said her country has been hijacked, and her ex-colleagues shouldn’t escape blame.

“Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are the new U.S. gulags the Democrats are helping us create,” she said.

While plenty of T-shirts featured Sen. Barack Obama’s beaming visage, the speakers showed little faith the senator would affect much change if elected.

Local iconoclast Ward Churchill, the former professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, referred to Denver as an “occupied” city.

Mr. Churchill said the nation’s history of oppression dated back to its “illegal, forcible, point-of-a-gun occupation” of American Indian land.

Speaking in front of an American Indian Movement flag, Mr. Churchill said this year’s protest would echo those from 40 years ago, but any mayhem wouldn’t flow from anyone speaking out.

“All the violence in ‘68 came from the Chicago police department,” he said.

Mark Cohen, a Recreate 68 co-founder, said the protest defied the wishes of the Democratic Party.

“Some so-called ‘national leaders’ tried to tell us we shouldn’t be here. It would hurt Obama’s chances,” Mr. Cohen said.

Ron Kovic, the Vietnam veteran whose story and sacrifice inspired the book and film “Born on the Fourth of July,” said protesters didn’t deserve to be sent to cages for speaking their minds. The city of Denver installed temporary protest space surrounded by chain-link fencing for the convention.

“I gave three-fourths of my body in Vietnam, and I’m not gonna be put in any cage,” he says.

Denver resident Karen Larson brought her dog, Buster, to the protest to show support for those trying to stop the war in Iraq. She bemoaned the small turnout, but said it didn’t affect the message.

“This looks like the ‘60s right now,” she said. “It’s not as big, but it’s just as sincere.”

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