Please see Part 1 for my initial thoughts about Monday's events outside of the Pepsi Center.
As I walked east of the parade route (the road on which it is located I originally thought was Larimer, but I may have been mistaken, and as of this writing, I'm still not sure. I will correct when I get the right info), I entered an area full of luxury shops and cafes and restaurants, above which were stretched the flags of the 50 states (see photos at right).
At that intersection, I paused and asked a cop just exactly how far I had to go down 14th street to get to the Civic Center Park. I'd already had some experience asking questions of the cops (see Part 1), and I didn't hold out much hope, especially (and oddly, I suppose, but I have a thing for footwear), because he was wearing these really intense, tall black leather boots.
"It's far," he said. "You're talking seven, eight blocks."
I must have looked crestfallen. I was already tired of walking.
But he smiled. "You know what? Just walk up to 16th Street Mall. There's a free bus that will run you all the way to the Civic Center."
And so I did. The free bus is great. They come along every minute or so and stop every few blocks or so, ending right where I needed to be. The 16th Street Mall bus is my friend.
I hopped off at the end of the line and made my way through the throngs to the Civic Center Park. This is where the action is, I thought. Unlike the seeming desolation of the area around the Pepsi Center, the area around the Civic Center was hoppin'.
The first thing my eyes met was a large contingent of people wearing orange jumpsuits. Dressed as prisoners, wearing black hoods over their heads, members of World Can't Wait attempted to get volunteers to wear the jumpsuits and join them on their march to protest torture of prisoners. While they talked to people, I wandered over to the outdoor ampitheater, where a woman spoke in angry tones about the treatment of prisoners, against our government holding political prisoners. Signs and banners hung from railings, and a few people stood and watched, took pictures, but there was not what you would call a crowd.
Others milled about handing out free newspapers. One woman I spoke with handed me a paper and talked about the fact that this country does need change, but that, in her opinion, Barack Obama is not the man to bring it. That he's still a part of the current government machine. She wished for a radical departure from the way this country has been governed.
Around 12:30 p.m., the orange jumpsuits began to gather for their march, with the police not far behind.
I followed the group towards the 16th Street Mall, down which they headed. Spectators poured out of stores and restaurants to watch the action, and cops followed behind on foot, on bicycles, in golf carts, and on horses. There were far more cops than protesters, but the spectators on the sidewalk swelled the crowd.
16th Street Mall is a wide avenue down the center of which is a wide median where people are set up selling hats and shirts, Obama pins, Denver souvenirs. The protesters had been trying to walk down the street, but the cops forced them up onto the sidewalk, creating a mass of protesters and spectators and media.
Once the group turned down a side street, the crowd lessened, and it was more or less just protesters and cops, with a few media people, mostly appearing to be independents, following behind.
At an intersection, I came upon a cop holding a video camera. He and I pointed our cameras at each other and I asked, "Office, do you mind if I ask why you're holding a camera?"
"Excuse me, why?" he asked. I didn't like his tone. I was respectful, why wasn't he?
"I'm just curious," I added.
"This is my assignment, ma'am," he answered. I continued walking.
The protesters had gotten far ahead of me, as I lagged behind taking video and photographs of the police presence. They are fascinating to me. I've never seen so many in one place at one time.
By the time I reached the stopping point, a speaker was shouting about the indignities suffered by prisoners, but I wasn't able to squeeze through the crowd to see the waterboarding demonstration they had promised.
The entire area was completely surrounded by policemen and women.
After fifteen minutes or so, the people on the fringe of the crowd began to drift away. Some of the police were called off and turned around to head back west towards 16th Street. I soon followed, dripping with sweat and thirsty as hell, to find water.
Once I reached 16th Street Mall, I headed north to the next corner so I could catch the bus. What I encountered there will be found in Part 3. Let's just say hard-core Christians and those who support a homosexual lifestyle (for lack of a better term) don't mix well.
All photographs copyright Victoria Gonia.