LODO – “You’re going to age 20 years in the next four days”
That was the conversation I overheard late last night between two suited security employees of a swanky 16th Street Mall hotel. From the looks of it, the two had escorted the man from the hotel’s premises for reasons I don’t know. He simply didn’t belong there. The man had obviously been talking about the arrival of the DNC the mob scene that comes with it.
Almost eight hours earlier Carlos, Anne and I had arrived at the same hotel to pick up our press credentials – a task that went all too smoothly. In the massive subterranean ball-room system that lies beneath the hotel, well-dressed people from all parts of the country gathered to sign in as either a delegate or as a member of the press corps. The three of us found our designated room for our credentials.
“They are ready for you,” the man said while guarding the windowless room. I entered leaving Anne and Carlos behind. Apparently they only wanted me, their point of contact.
“Take a seat and relax,” one of the two men who sat behind a long desk. Both were wearing tweed. I had wondered how tight security was going to be. Apparently from the looks of it, they were certainly going to make sure I wasn’t a threat.
“Telluride Watch huh?” The man on the left said. As I found out later, I wasn’t the only one nervous about my inquisition at the time. Both Anne and Carlos had watched me go into the drab room to take a seat in front of the two officials.
“What are they asking him?” Anne said to Carlos. “It looks rough in there.” Neither could relax as they were sure they were next to be questioned. Security must be tight and we must be on our toes. My inquisition continued.
“How was the drive over?” The man on the right said.
“Good,” I answered. “Took a while, but we made it. How are things going here?” I tried to ease their tensions by striking a conversation. Maybe they will like me.
“Oh things are going well, pretty quiet really,” he answered. I looked around. I was the only one in the room despite several other inquisition stations that had been set up. “This is all very exciting isn’t it?” Apparently the two men weren’t after me at all. They were simply being friendly.
After some good chatter and a few signatures later, the passes were issued and an all-too friendly fashion. No problem. Either they really liked me, or handing out passes simply wasn’t that big of a deal. I triumphantly left the room, passes in hand. Carlos and Anne both showed relief in that the conversation was kept friendly with the DNC press officials and that they didn’t have to go in and speak with them. Our view of the security situation suddenly changed when we made it outside.
The 16th Street Mall was as crowded as I ever seen – especially at 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon. What became very apparent as we entered the scene is that the Denver Police is taking security very, very seriously. In the period of about five minutes we had witnessed a large pack of armored patrolmen, complete with helmets, visors, BP vests, clubs, and a large quantity of blue zip-tie handcuffs, march past us. Then, to our right, eight mounties marched by. A white rental van pulled up and eight more troops came out of the sliding door – all equipped with the same riot gear.
They were surrounding us at all angles and I wondered if something was already wrong. As I soon found out, the scene we had just witnessed was the scene at every corner of the 16th Street Mall. Hell, a riot tank with six patrolmen surrounding it was parked at one corner.
Passes in hand, we made it further north to the Sugar Cube Building – the place we would be staying for the next four evenings during the convention, courtesy of Telluride local Grant McCargo, whose company developed it. Thanks Grant!
The Sugar Cube couldn’t be better situated for visitors looking to catch a Rockies game or a night out on the town. We sat, planning our week ahead, on the balcony of our unit watching the many, many flight patterns of what I think are National Guard helicopters. I certainly felt secure…almost to the point where it was scaring me.
“Is this a glimpse into the future,” I wondered. When you bring this many different people into one area, the security is a must but is this what national security is really coming to? Foot patrols at every street corner?
We later made it out onto the street for more people watching. Downtown Denver, as any large urban area, attracts people from every walk of life. Put on top one huge political festival (in Telluride terms) you add even more diversity. Anti war protesters, young Democrats, uncoordinated buskers, panhandlers, dopers, off-duty cops, and well-suited businessmen and women all crowded the streets. Obama supporters. McCain Supporters. Anne and I were taken back when an oversized, jacked-up 4X4 truck cruised by with “NoBama” written on the tailgate. On the sides it read, “Obama cannot save America’s soul. Only God can.” Out of the window two young, 9 and 10-year-old kids waved as if they were in the 4th of July Parade.
“Jeez,” Anne said. “They are starting them young.” The truck was a harsh reminder to us all that Obama’s campaign of hope and change is certainly has a battle ahead of it. With that, as I finish this tirade on Monday morning in the café portion of the Tattered Cover Bookstore, I look forward to three hours from now when the political oratory begins at the Pepsi Center. Whatever is said, it must strengthen this campaign. After all, God, isn’t running against Obama, John McCain is. I think we have all seen in the past what people will do, democratically or not, to win.