Meet the protestors on their way from the DNC to the RNC
Heard rumors about the demonstrators here in Denver? Whipsawed with fright about potential disruptions to your life during the Republican National Convention next week? We talked with several protestors who plan to make the trip, and here's what we found: mostly, they want to talk. Talk and feed you.
FOOD NOT BOMBS: LET'S DO LUNCH
Oz, a slender, t-shirt-clad 20-something with a journal he's handwriting in between time serving meals, looks like the activist he is. A student from Vermont, Oz is working with the group Food Not Bombs handing out free sustenance to community members here in Denver.
Like many who have come to protest at the DNC, he's trying to catch a ride to Minneapolis-St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. But if you're expecting to hear overheated political rhetoric about confrontation, you'll have to look elsewhere. Oz talks a mile a minute about issues, and strategy, and most of all dialogue.
"A lot of people go [to the RNC] just to yell at the Republicans -- but we've got to talk and listen to them, too," he says. "We're on different sides of the political spectrum, but we're all Americans."
Oz has come to talk to Democrats, including delegates from all over the country, about a bevy of issues from Iraq to the economy, from gay marriage to a comprehensive energy policy. While the Dems are more likely, he says, to be close to his stances and hence listen, he's disappointed about the limits on protest in Denver. Because a number of demonstrations have been confined to a structure that's been dubbed the "freedom cage," real barriers are in place against the discourse Oz and others like him crave.
He does expect more confrontation in the Twin Cities than has been in evidence this week, but opines that the vast majority of demonstrators here just want to talk.
"The people going up there are using this week to articulate the issues that matter to them," says Oz. "That's what I think the Republicans -- and the Democrats -- need right now: dialogue with actual Americans."
THE WORLD IS LISTENING
See someone in a pink shirt, nodding intently with compassionate eyes? Like Oz, they're here for dialogue. Unlike him, they're not here to protest. They're here to listen. To you.
"We think the key to peace is listening to peoples' vision for the world," says Eric Smith of Denver, whose organization is called The World is Listening. The group has about 60 listeners in Denver this week, some of whom will make the trip to the Twin Cities in shirts with "What is Your Vision?" on the front and "I Am Here to Listen" on the back.
And that's what the do. They tease your dreams out of you and put them on the Internet, recording your ideas for blogosphere posterity.
The volunteers go through listening training, a process that helps the listener shape a raw vision into something focused that can appear in short form online. After a week in Denver, many have refined their techniques, which they'll bring -- along with bright pink attire -- out to the Midwest.
EVERYBODY'S KITCHEN: UP WITH FOOD, DOWN WITH WEAK BEER
Two former Minneapolis residents, Neal and Shon, are headed back in a bus. The group they work with, Everybody's Kitchen, serves meals to homeless people. But that's not the only political issue that speaks to Shon, a Brainerd native:
Both left the Twin Cities about a year ago to travel in the bus, serving food and living wherever. "Home is where the street is," says Shon. Since 1991, three different buses have been used for Everybody's Kitchen.
They're trying to raise funds for gas and travel expenses, including beer that's stronger than the 3.2 percent alcohol content stuff that Shon so reviles. Passersby notice his sign as much as they do the huge, steaming vats of stew the group is cooking.
"No 3.2 beer: that's what I'm talking about!" shouts an African American woman passing by. "And legalize marijuana." "Fuck yeah," Shon responds. Then they get back to the business of the day, business they hope to continue in Minnesota next week.