2008 Blue Scholars Slog From the Democratic National Convention
posted by August 25 at 11:20 AMon
Seattle hiphop stars Blue Scholars are down in Denver, performing during the Democratic National Convention. Here’s what they’ve reported back so far. Words by Geo, photos by Sabzi.
1. The Arrival
After being bopped for an unexpected charge for having just ONE bag to check in at the Spokane airport, we arrived in Denver at 9:30 am. The first thing we see out of the gate is a row of about Obama supporters holding up welcome and campaign signs. They were eclipsed by the biggest sign of all… for FOX News.
2. The Numbers
50,000 people are expected from out of town this week—20,000 of whom are media and press. 4,000 police officers will be on duty all week, along with 2,500 national guard. 75,000+ are expected to attend Obama’s Thursday night acceptance speech at Invesco Field (damn shame what they call Mile High Stadium these days). And one large sign declaring that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican:
3. The Capitol
Benjamin, a kind young fellow organizing with the Recreate 68 folks, drops us off at Lincoln Avenue facing the Capitol. He’s running off the fumes of a two-hour sleep, which makes three of us. Atop the building’s steps, dead prez breaks into their first song, a remix over that Black Rob joint (“War” instead of “Whoa”). 1,500 people look on.
Ward Churchill and Kathleen Cleaver are chillin’ in the shade on the building’s left side. When I meet Ward, he asks if John is with us. John who, I ask? He says John Sinclair, as in John Sinclair and his Blues Scholars, a jazz outfit fronted by the former MC-5 manager and ex-Chairman of the White Panther Party. A cutie from Out The Box TV interviews Ward, ending the segment by looking into the camera and yelling “DNC, bitch!” Ward glances over, confounded.
It’s sweltering and somebody forgot to provide water. The elevation magnifies everything. After dead prez’s spirited performance and a shoutout to their candidate of choice, Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, the crowd is ready to march. In a couple hours, they’ll be back, and we’ll greet them with music with the help of our gracious soundman, Wynn (Wind?), who might share more than few DNA strands with Seattle’s own rally/mobilization soundman of choice, Bob Barnes.
4. The Compassionate Conservatives
Ten pro-McCain-ers are holding up “NOBAMA” signs across the street. With or without the signs, they look like a bunch of douche-bag frat dudes (and one sorority sister). As we walk by, the sorority sister hands us a “Vote Red” Denver GOP flyer, which features this quote from Jon Stewart:
“After a quick meet-and-greet with King Abdullah, Obama was off to Israel, where he made a quick stop at the manger in Bethlehem where he was born.”
Do these poor souls even know that Jon Stewart is a fucking comedian, much less who he is? Desperate people, these neo-cons are. I tell her that they’re not true republicans because Red is the communists’ color. She looks at me like she’s doing calculus in her head. I walk away.
5. Standoff at Lincoln Avenue
At 2 pm, the march still hasn’t returned, but a nice crowd of a couple hundred stand anxiously waiting the rap. With nobody around to tell us whether or not to push the set back, we begin, hoping the march will arrive during our set. 45 minutes later, RA, Saba and I are done, and the marchers still have not returned. At least Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. dug the set.
It turns out they marchers were halted a couple blocks away, barricaded by the riot squad preventing them from disrupting traffic on Lincoln Avenue. Something happens—we can’t tell what, exactly, since were a few hundred yards away, and somehow the crowd breaks through. Suddenly, Lincoln Avenue is shut down with several hundred people slowly crossing the street.
A power struggle ensues between two would-be leaders in the crowd. One, with a megaphone, throws up a peace sign and urges restraint, yelling “we’ve come in peace.” Another, sans megaphone, begins chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” He wins, and the crowd claims Lincoln Avenue. The riot squad lines up, facing the rabble. The rabble refuses to budge. Bystanders watch, cameras in hand. Someone throws a bottle at the police but they stand down. With the police/protester ratio heavily favoring the state, the crowd intuitively disperses, but not without a few tense moments.
We’re watching this all happen from the Capitol steps with RA Scion, Dave Meinert, Jeff Chang, Davey D, and a handful of protesters of color who, unlike some other people, are trying to avoid arrest. We all agree that while direct action is necessary in principle, its practice must be timely and tactical.
Words by Geo, photos by Sabzi.