Hundreds of protesters descended on downtown Denver for the first day of the Democratic convention, voicing concerns over ranging from
human rights to ending the war in Iraq to letting Ralph Nader participate in the presidential debates.
Although largely peaceful, some protesters and police clashed, prompting the police to use pepper spray on some groups.
“About 7 p.m. Monday, riot police using pepper spray forced a couple of hundred protesters out of Civic Center and then blocked them before they could reach the 16th Street Mall,” the Denver Post reported.
Lynn Kimbrough, a spokeswoman for the convention’s Joint Information Center, told the Post that at least three officers fired pepper spray or pepper balls — similar to a paintball.
According to the Rocky Mountain News, police armed with sticks and face masks encircled about 70 protesters wearing bandannas as protection from the pepper spray on 15th Street near the Denver Civic Center.
Some protesters sang Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and passed around markers to write the phone number for legal aid protection on their arms and legs.
Around the city at least 100 protesters were detained by police for processing.
Larry Hales of the activist group Recreate ‘68 told the Post his group did nothing wrong Monday and had a permit for the Civic Center gathering when police closed in and created havoc.
His group’s there for its Tuesday protests will be “No Racism/Imperialism,” highlighted by a Public Enemy concert (original line-up).
But not all the people caught up in Monday’s mini-dramas had anything to do with the protests or the DNC. The Rocky Mountain News had this priceless lead and an even better photo: “Police mistook an 80-year-old man as an anarchist Monday night while he walked from the Denver library to his bus stop.”
Denver resident Cecil Bethea, clad in a short-sleeved purple and aquamarine plaid shirt and light slacks, was near protesters when police drew him from the crowd with his hands tied behind his back and searched him extensively because he was carrying a briefcase.
“They were a little rough with me, especially because I did not represent any danger to them,” he told the paper. “I don’t think anybody would say I look dangerous or scary.”
The retired haberdasher was eventually released after he showed police his library receipt.