DNC: Aspen delegates hopeful
Pitkin County Correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Two Roaring Fork Valley Democrats here this week are hopeful that Sen. Hillary Clinton was successful when she made several dramatic statements of support for Sen. Barack Obama on Monday.
“I’m rather relieved, you know,” said Clinton delegate Bryan Gonzales of Basalt, who, along with Aspen delegate Blanca O’Leary, is at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week.
“All this animosity that’s been between the two camps really has to come to an end,” he said. “We all need to come together at this point and support the Democratic candidate for president.”
Clinton (D-N.Y), speaking at the Hispanic Caucus of the Democratic Party yesterday morning, urged her delegates to get behind Obama (D-Ill.) in order to wrest the White House out of Republican control.
“Let us remember what we were fighting for,” she said, referring to the primary battle between her and Obama. “We weren’t fighting to elect one particular candidate, we were fighting to take our country back.”
Clinton also referred to Republican ads aimed at convincing voters that Democrats are too divided between the Clinton and Obama camps to win in November.
Adding a little twist to a standard sign-off line for campaign ads, Clinton declared, “I’m Hillary Clinton, and I do not approve that message.”
After she spoke, Gonzales, who was elected as a Clinton delegate at the Eagle County Caucus in February, said that it is time to move on.
“I’m ready to start campaigning for Obama … loved Hillary, loved the campaign, thought she would have made a great president,” he said. “But, you know what? There’s no silver medals in politics. She is not going to be president. Barack Obama is. It’s time that we all got together in support of Barack Obama.”
O’Leary, who was elected as an Obama delegate, agreed that Clinton’s words are a welcome development.
“[The speech] is going to be very healing,” she said. “I know there will still be ladies and men who will not follow her lead, but most of these people are, I think, very rational, and will listen to her.”
Some 17,000 people are expected to watch Obama’s acceptance speech at Invesco Field on Thursday, the final day of the convention. A total of more than 4,400 delegates were issued credentials for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and an estimated 15,000 journalists and 26,000 volunteers have filled Denver to the brim for the week.
Perhaps a couple of thousand “unconventional” citizens also have descended on the city, protesting what they say are insupportable positions by the Democrats on everything from perceived inadequate condemnation of the war in Iraq to the treatment of suspected terrorists to economic disparities among the population of the United States, and more.
A protest rally and march Sunday was overseen by scores of police, including some 80 cops patrolling on mountain bikes. Incidents included a verbal confrontation involving a Fox News reporter and a man associated with controversial former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, and a brief tussle between police and protesters at the fence surrounding the Pepsi Center, where the convention is being held.
Another scuffle ensued Monday when a member of the Official Street Preachers organization got into a shouting match with gay-rights activists on the 16th Street Mall. Police arrested one demonstrator.
Gonzales and O’Leary, who arrived in Denver over the weekend, attended a gala welcoming reception Sunday at Gov. Bill Ritter’s home, and later that day O’Leary went to a Latino street celebration. She also plans to spend time with delegates from Texas, where she lived before moving to Aspen with her family in 2001.
Gonzales on Sunday evening went to a “Rally For the Troops” event at the Red Rocks Amphitheater just west of Denver, where he listened to music by the likes of Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews and others in addition to various speakers that included the governor, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) and U.S. Rep. John Salazar (D-Alamosa).
“The music was great; however, the speakers in between were on fire,” he recalled. “I think the best part of the night and the most important speaker that we heard was Robert Kennedy. He was amazing … his main thing was talking about wind power and alternative energy. He had some great ideas that I’m hoping that Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden really incorporate into their plan.”
The pair started their work as delegates early Monday, attending a 7 a.m. breakfast function that included speeches and networking with other delegates and functionaries.
They then spent the rest of the morning at the Hispanic Caucus meeting, and were at the Pepsi Center in the afternoon to catch the opening gavel of the convention and watch the much-anticipated speech by Michelle Obama, wife of the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama.
The Aspen Times has sent reporter and columnist John Colson, with photographer Paul Conrad, to capture the feel of the first Democratic convention to be held in Denver since 1908.
Monday was opening day at the Democratic National Convention, but it’s already been four days for me.
I got here early to check out the facilities at the Pepsi Center, home of the convention itself, and related facili-ties, and to get a sense of the town.
The first thing everyone coming to this political melee has noticed is the police presence ” cops on every cor-ner, lining the blocks between the corners, catching a little shady time underneath trees in the parks, rid-ing on mountain bikes in packs of 20 to 80 on the streets around the state Capitol Building, most notice-ably on Sunday, the day of the much-hyped “biggest protest” of the DNC week. And this was before things really got started.
Protest organizers said they were hoping for 10,000 at the rally and march, but if they claimed 1,000 at the Capitol steps that day they would’ve had to count every person more than once or twice. There prob-ably are more here now, as the convention gets under way, but they’re generally peaceable, even if they do kick up their heels every now and then just to see what the cops will do. And the cops, as usual, react swiftly and with a firm hand.
So far, we’ve had reports of minor skirmishes, a few arrests and of course, the developing story of the U.S. Secret Service, FBI and police breaking up a supposed conspiracy to shoot the presumptive nominee, Barack Obama.
Not much news available as of Monday night, other than the authorities are saying those arrested may have some connection to the Sons of Silence and an as-yet unnamed skinhead group somewhere.
Other than the cops, the city is its normal, congested, smog-ridden self, as much as that’s possible when deal-ing with partying delegates, outraged Yippees and assort-ed peacenicks, anti-establishmentarians and rabble-rousers.
In keeping with the “green” sub-theme of the conven-tion, I decided to ride a bicycle into the center of the city Monday, a few miles downhill along the Cherry Creek Bike Path. All went well until I tried to ride my bike over to the Pepsi Center to do some work in the press filing room there and was told I couldn’t bring my bike through the police checkpoints. This, despite the fact that the city has set up fleets of free bicycles for delegates and other conventioneers to use to cut down on the air pollution index.
The cops generally pointed to the squads of Secret Service agents milling around like starved cock-roaches at a luau and said it was their fault, that I’d have to talk to them. So I did, and, surprise, surprise, they actually were more helpful than our local gendarmes. They pointed the way for me to get through the outer perimeter, although another bunch of them stopped me at the actual fence-line around the Pepsi Center and said I’d have to park it and walk in.
So much for green; I guess someone forgot to check the SS list of potentially lethal weapons to be on the watch for. That’s right, right up there on the list was “bicycle.” Now, how a bicycle can be con-sidered a dangerous weapon is a little beyond me, but that’s probably why I’m not a cop or a Secret Service agent. I just don’t quite get the big picture.
On a lighter note, while watching the CNN talking heads work through their run-up to the Convention, I caught a cute little story about some affiliate channel in New Jersey that ran a cockroach race as a precursor to Election Day, with labels of “Obama” and “McCain” on the two racing roaches. McCain won easily, helped along by the fact that the Obama roach fell off the track in mid-stride. I wonder what the cockroaches know that we don’t.
” John Colson