I don't know if Wednesday was truly quiet on the protest front. What I know is that if they were happening, I didn't find them.
Every day here in Denver during Convention week has been different. Today, I found myself swept up in a maelstrom of Capitalism with a capital C. T-shirts and hats and buttons were loaded on tables everywhere I turned. Watches for sale. Obama flags. Obama sunglasses. Obama shot glasses. Obama coffee mugs and tote bags and foam fingers.
Yep. Obama foam fingers.
I'd already wandered up to the Civic Center Park, only to find it essentially deserted. Of course, that may have been because it had been completely surrounded by chain link fencing to allow for preparations for A Taste of Colorado. A few lone protesters hung out on the fringes, outnumbered by cops, though some kids had posted signs warning the cops away from their quiet, shady area in which they served food and water.
Bored, and thinking I'd find people shouting on 16th Avenue Mall, or nearer to the Pepsi Center, I headed north. I came across a handful of Hillary supporters sporting PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) stickers on their shirts and Hillary masks on the backs of their heads and more of the Jesus-loving folks who are certain I'm headed for hell, and then I saw it.
The sign. The huge sign with the huge, blown-up photograph of a head that resembles, in shape only, the head of a human baby. Skin tight and stretched and blackened and horrifying. (photo available here. But I warn you, it is disturbing).
BARACK OBAMA, the sign screamed. CHANGE THIS.
Out of habit, in an automated, instinctive move, I snapped a photograph of the sign but then my gut clenched. I turned, and nearly stumbled trying to get to the corner, which I turned, my fists so tight they hurt, my lips sucked in between my teeth, my breath coming short and rapid, and I gagged. Over and over until I was able to talk myself into calming down.
Damnit. They got me.
Later, I saw them again, as I was weaving through the crowd to get to the entrance through the gates on Auroria, on my way into the Pepsi Center, and I forced myself to look. Forced myself to take some of the sting and disgust out of the photograph, yet my fists clenched tight again, and I moved quickly past, eager to get beyond them and inside the relative safety of the fenced-off perimeter of the Pepsi Center.
Of course, the legions of cops just inside that fence was almost as equally disturbing (see this article).
Look, I don't like the manner in which the anti-abortion/pro-life folks often present their argument, but they do have a right to do it. Inherent in any attempt to get attention is often the necessity of digging as deeply into emotions as possible. That's what Eyes Wide Open attempts to do by providing a visual representation of the number of lives lost in the Iraq War, or why the World Can't Wait people dress in orange jumpsuits and march with black bags over their faces, to remind us of the images that came out of Abu Ghraib.
When faced with an image of what is purported to be an aborted fetus (or even, of jars containing supposedly aborted fetuses, as I saw many years ago when involved in a Pro-Choice march in Topeka, Kansas), or when faced by obstinate, hateful condemnations from the Jesus Saves people, I find I'm often trapped between yelling back or walking away.
As a journalist, I am supposed to be unbiased. And, as I've stated elsewhere, I've no desire to become news while here in Denver.
But I also know that my beliefs and the beliefs of some of these groups are so far apart, that no amount of discussion, at whatever volume, is going to bring us closer together.