By Andy Martin
Denver has been a city under siege this week: by police. The normally tranquil and laid-back municipality has found itself under virtual occupation by local and area police forces, as well as goon squads of the Secret Service. The goal: lock down any sign of protest at the Democratic National Convention.
Downtown Denver was under a smothering nighttime occupation. There were police on bicycles, police on foot, police in Humvee-style vehicles, police everywhere. The only life on the city’s streets came after the convention adjourned while people briefly returned to their hotels.
The Federal Reserve Bank also looked under siege. It was eerie.
I’m not sure whether Denver officials copied the Beijing Olympics, or Beijing copied Denver, but the police state atmosphere in both cities was strikingly similar. Americans made fun of “protest areas” in Beijing that were far away from the Olympics. In Denver, the approved protest areas were also far removed from the convention. One group of pro-Hillary Clinton demonstrators was required to protest at a park that was so distant it was not on downtown maps along 16th Street.
We as Americans like to look down on the Chinese for prohibiting dissent while proclaiming free speech. We need to take another long, hard look at ourselves. We too proclaim free speech while steadily eliminating any traces of meaningful dissent. All in the name of “security.”
Until Wednesday night’s demonstrations, prostitutes outnumbered protesters in the city. “Working girls” always follow any convention, and they especially love the carousing Democrats, who are big spenders when it comes to companionship-for-hire. By comparison, Republicans are staid and bad for business. ContrarianCommentary.com did the research and determined there were more “professionals” in Denver than protesters. Until Wednesday evening.
Wednesday’s marchers approached the perimeter of the Pepsi Center. Before a riot could break out–and one was imminent–Barack Obama blinked and sent his operatives to accept a missive from leaders of the parade. This is what passes for approved “protest” in America today. Thursday night will bring closed highways and 75,000 Obamabots, but again no protesters within hearing or seeing distance.
Monday night I debriefed police officers who had assaulted demonstrators that the police claimed were “thinking” of marching down city streets. I am not aware of any legal doctrine that allows police anywhere to arrest people before they actually commit a criminal act. Even the crime of “attempt” requires an overt act. “Thought” is not a crime; neither is verbal hyperbole.
Tuesday, there was video of an unprovoked police assault on a demonstrator for protesting another arrest.
As a society we have to ask ourselves whether we still want to conduct national politics in the open, or whether we want conventions and mass meetings to be conducted in hermetically-sealed “bubbles” that are manipulated and controlled by the Secret Service.
Monday night I witnessed the absurdity of a Secret Service goon (and he was a goon) threatening someone for taking a picture of “security procedures,” namely a gate into the convention area; the Center was perhaps a third of a mile away. You could barely see the Pepsi Center from the perimeter that the police had created to immunize delegates from any evidence or sound of protest.
Perhaps smaller cities can no longer host massive conventions. But even New York Police were forced to pay millions in damages for excessive police tactics in 2004, including the use of plain clothes police officers as provocateurs.
With each passing election cycle politics becomes more remote from the people, and more under the control of the Secret Service, a politicians’ private protection force. The Secret Service is not interested in democracy, and only cares about “protection.” But protection can reach the point where it becomes a racket, where politicians are screened off from reality and meaningful protest is asphyxiated.
Barack Obama already operates under a more extensive security “bubble” than President Bush. Can anyone foresee how massive that bubble will become if Obama is actually elected? You will need permission to enter Washington, DC, which will become a walled city comparable to the Beijing Olympiad.
The last presidential inauguration prompted lawsuits claiming that demonstrators were forced away from Pennsylvania Avenue. In the name of “security.” While a court recently ordered protesters closer to Pennsylvania Avenue, no doubt Obama will challenge that ruling on the grounds of, you guessed it, “security.”
How far are we willing to deflect democracy? The question needs to be asked. And Answered. By the American people. Not the Secret Service. It’s time to prick the bubble.