DENVER (AP) _ What if they gave a protest and almost nobody came? What if they gave a peaceful protest and the police were the only ones to engage in violence?
Some are asking that question in Denver, where months of anticipation of mass protests during the Democratic National Convention have led -- so far -- to scattered scrimmages with police, more than 100 arrests and, in some cases, rallies where police officers have outnumbered demonstrators and reacted with beatings, pepper spray and mass arrests with little provocation, according to accounts by demonstrators, legal observers and videos.
Some organizers would have liked to see bigger protests: Crowds of 5,000, 10,000, even 25,000 would descend on Denver to draw attention to issues ranging from the war in Iraq to fuel prices to marijuana prohibition.
Authorities prepared for them. Denver police called in a uniformed force of about 1,000 additional officers from around the metro area and even horse patrols from out of state. The federal presence has been nothing short of overwhelming.
For Jean Stevens of Code Pink, a women's anti-war group, passions for protesting run higher heading to St. Paul, where the Republican National Convention convenes next week. Fifty members of Code Pink are in Denver; she expects about 150 in St. Paul.
"I think more activists have more of a bone to pick with the Republicans,'' Stevens said.
But some police seem to have a bone to pick with protestors … and even cameramen. An ABC News investigative reporter was pushed around by a police officer and arrested later for standing on public property and taking photos of a private meeting between DNC officials and corporate lobbyists. See the video here: http://www.abcnews.go.com/Blotter/Conventions/story?id=5668622.
A Code Pink anti-war protestor was hit by the baton of a Denver police officer during a protest Tuesday, knocking the woman, Alicia Forrest, to the ground hard enough to hear a smack on the video -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfISlq1gzK8&NR=1 – from Rocky Mountain News.
According to the Rocky Mountain News, the ACLU has sent a letter to the city of Denver complaining that the conditions in the detention facility known as "Gitmo on the Platte" are unconstitutional and must be remedied immediately. The detention facility was set up to house thousands of arrestees. According to the story, prisoners have been bound in pairs in ice-cold cells without blankets and have been denied phone calls and access to attorneys, prompting many to plead guilty to merely escape confinement, says the ACLU. Many of those arrested, some in mass arrests, were given preprinted forms and made to believe they faced years in prison.
Dana Fisher, a sociology professor at Columbia University, studied the thousands of protesters who descended on New York for the Republican National Convention in 2004. Fisher found that most drove no more than four hours to get there.
Generating large protests means mobilizing young people _ and they've grown up during a Bush administration where protesting hasn't brought about change, Fisher argued.
"This isn't the civil rights movement, this is not the anti-war movement against Vietnam, and this is not the environmental movement of the 1970s, where people came out and policies got changed,'' she said. "All they see is people getting arrested and people standing out in the streets and nothing happening.''