- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2008

DENVER | Tent State began as a tuition protest five years ago. Today, the organizing tool has grown into a massive dance-party protest against the war in Iraq.

Protesters at Tent State’s “Funk the War” dance party pounded on homemade drums, break-danced to a DJ and called for an immediate pullout from Iraq - in what organizers said has been their biggest event yet.

“It’s never been to this scale. We’ve had about 30 tent states across the U.S. and one in Scotland and one in England,” said Adam Jung, an organizer for Tent State University.

Bicyclers pedaled by, carrying signs reading “Drop beats, not bombs,” as part of Tent State’s “Funk the War Demonstration” Sunday. Denver police officers, meanwhile, stood in the shade in the blocks surrounding the Denver Statehouse, where most protests are being held during the Democratic National Convention.

“It’s real clear reform will not come from electing a Democrat,” said Marylou Cabral, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation.



More than other protest groups, Tent State is counting on music to drive its point home.

Fans lined up in Cuernevaca Park, where Tent State organizers have set up for the DNC, for free tickets to see Rage Against the Machine on Wednesday. The group is also hosting Public Enemy on Monday and more than a dozen other socially active groups and performers.

“Every band is way bigger than any band we’ve ever booked before,” Mr. Jung said.

Tent State grew out of protests students held on the campus of Rutgers University in 2003 to protest $100 million in higher education cuts, and since then has evolved into a broader model for protesters of all stripes, Mr. Jung said.

Organizers with Tent State echoed a popular sentiment among the thousands of other protesters expected to show up this week in Denver: nobody gets a free pass, not even Democrats.

Glenn Spagnuolo, co-founder of the alliance Recreate 68, which held its own protests and march to the convention center, said protesters are trying to put pressure on Democrats to act on their campaign promises. Recreate 68 is a reference to the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968.

“We feel like over the last two years the Democrats have usedprogressive messages to get elected, but the messages end after they take office,” Mr. Spagnuolo said. “Just because they have a ‘D’ next to their name doesn’t mean they get a free pass.”

Antiwar protesters appear to make up the bulk of the activists.

Denver police issued a bulletin last week, alerting officers to watch for caches of makeshift helmets, plastic shields and nails in abandoned buildings around the city, where they think protesters might be storing supplies.

But protesters have said they are sticking to nonviolent demonstrations.

Protest groups have criticized the protest zone established by the Secret Service earlier this year - an area enclosed by fences and concrete barriers - shunning it in favor of spots near the Statehouse.

“We’ll be camping at the “Freedomville Shantytown” in the freedom cage,” Tent State organizers write on the Web site.

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