Ringling Bros. Presents: Outside the DNC

While the anarchists at Recreate 68 must certainly be disappointed by the overall turnout of protesters so far during the Democratic National Convention, Tuesday and Wednesday did bring out a range of activists from those we might call leftists to true radicals who call Barack Obama “fascist”.

One man, a 69-year old poet/activist named Rick Burnley, was selling t-shirts that said Gulag Amerikkka which, despite the three K’s obviously plagiarized from Jeremiah Wright, did have a message that I had some sympathy with. Namely, that America imprisons too many people, particularly for minor drug crimes.

Burnley offered me some of his anti-establishment poetry:

“Let us prey” say the hypocrites
Perched at the top.
And prey is what they do,
They prey on the weak and the poor of the world,
And the rest they merely screw.

Despite our disagreement on some political issues, Burnley was a pleasant guy. I can just picture him sleeping in his car in Brooklyn, as he described, without two nickels to rub together, trying to make enough playing music and reading his anti-establishment poetry (which wasn’t too bad if you’re into that sort of thing.) He was the least insane and least dangerous of the people I interviewed over the last two days.

Nearby was an Amnesty International tent, “manned” by several 50-something women from San Francisco with whom I had an extended conversation, beginning with the most ironic moment of the week.

As I was standing there with a voice recorder concealed in a sheet of paper in my hand, one woman, a “true radical” so she says, lamented that “it’s so much like Orwell’s 1984 these days…you never know when someone might be watching you or taping what you say!” Stifling a laugh wasn’t easy.

I asked whether Barack Obama represented enough change for them, to which she responded “not with his current positions on issues” and when asked whom she would prefer the answer was the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney. When I suggested that McKinney is racist, I was told that that was just manipulation by the mainstream media. Uh huh.

The true mindset of these people (and it explains a lot about why our worst politicians are elected in San Francisco) was made quite clear by another Amnesty International woman who, while remarkably deluded, did not come across as an idiot. In other words, she really believes this stuff. She says “I’m a radical socialist, but drifting toward revolutionary communism” and that “capitalism’s fatal flaw is that it eats itself alive from the inside.”

When I suggested that’s actually what communism does, she gave an answer typical of leftists from Marx to Dewey to Pol Pot: "Although Mao had a good idea at first, those so-called communist countries were really dictatorships. I’m studying a new way that uses more scientific analysis, and when Communism done more scientifically it will work.”

It is remarkable that someone who in her own way seemed intelligent can’t see the obvious fact that making people conform to someone’s “scientific” decisions can only be accomplished, in the words of Mao, at the end of a gun. Communism must devolve into dictatorship when implemented on any scale larger than a kibbutz.

Wednesday morning brought one of the more tense protest marches so far and I jumped into the middle of it. The group was called Unconventional Action and a police officer I spoke to just before the march started said they expected property damage. Luckily there was none.

The march was an environmental radical protest with masked, pierced, and tattooed anarchists and communists railing against “green capitalism” and marching to office buildings housing companies they determined to be “big polluters”, including big oil, aluminum, and gold mining firms, and Colorado’s largest utility.

They railed against “greenwashing”, whatever that is, and against the Democratic National Convention from taking contributions from these companies.

Although the leader of the march, who gave his name only as “Rockslide” (seen below in yellow striped shirt) urged people to behave and not get arrested, the rhetoric of their chants was much less tame: “For the earth, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night!”

I interviewed one particularly boisterous protestor who said that that line was meant non-violently and that “it’s very effective to show up at the homes of big polluters and embarrass them in front of their neighbors.  After all, we’re going through the biggest species holocaust ever, and I’m not going down without a fight.”  When asked whether the environmental issue was the most important, he said “Absolutely. All social injustice comes from ecological injustice. Just ask all the indigenous people.”

The protesters probably didn’t mean it as funny as I found it when they started chanting “Stop warming now! Stop warming now!”. Mr. “Rockslide” said that their policy goal was to “stop all carbon emissions immediately.” Hmmm…I wonder how he would have gotten to Denver (since essentially none of the protest leaders outside of the Recreate 68 group were from Colorado.)

Although nothing bad happened, this was a protest to be taken seriously in terms of safety, and the police weren’t kidding around.

There were a few non-leftist protesters around in the form of extreme Christian “preachers” who were having a spirited debate with several young men, most of whom were behaving very badly (“What do you think of gay porn?”, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”, “Do you ever think about having sex with other guys?”) but the “preachers” remained remarkably self-controlled even if espousing the most extreme version of Christian dogma I’d ever heard…basically we’re all going to hell unless we “surrender and serve Jesus Christ.”  (Note the t-shirt on the man in the middle: “Ask me why you deserve HELL.”)

Another small group of 20-ish-year old pierced and tattooed female protesters were holding signs saying “Fight the New World Order”.  When I asked just what that meant, one of them said “You know, the Illuminati! The elites! The Masons!”  I turned off my voice recorder in order not to waste my batteries and walked away shaking my head incredulously.

As I write this on Wednesday evening, some of our intrepid reporters from the Peoples Press Collective are in a large “Iraq War Vets for Peace” anti-war march.  Please check the web site regularly for updates, where you may see the sign being held up by people who I’m sure are in line for the Nobel Prize in Economics: “Everything For Everybody”.

Thursday is supposed to bring a very large pro-illegal immigration march…a scene which will likely also have the police on edge.

One of the more interesting trends I’ve found, such as in today’s protest march, was that there is often at least as much anti-Democrat sentiment as anti-Republican.  It could be that they have the exact converse of my view and believe that Republicans are beyond hope and that the Democrats are letting them down by not being leftist enough. 

Protester after protester, with the possible exception of anti-war activists, focused more of their venom on the Democrats and Barack Obama, believing that he’s not nearly enough “change”.  Luckily for the nation, the reason these people are out on the streets is that they can’t get more than the smallest fraction of their agendas implemented through a democratic process because even in our too-busy-to-care society, almost nobody agrees with a radical communist view that is fundamentally not just anti-American but anti-human.