The year was 1968, and everything sucked. The Vietnam War was in full metal jacket mode. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Riots erupted at the Democratic National Convention and Richard Nixon captured the White House.
The Dark Ages held more promise. And yet a group of Denver-based progressives want to resurrect those angry times and perhaps replicate the mayhem that made the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago a thing of beauty for Republicans.
Only time will tell whether the streets outside Denver’s Pepsi Center (site of the convention at the end of the month) will run red with hippie blood. Violence is not the intention of the tree-hugging, war-hating and Ward Churchill-supporting peace seekers behind “Re-create 68.”
“We are Re-create 68, not Re-create Chicago,” says Glenn Spagnuolo, a former Longmont community activist and one of the main Re-create organizers.
Re-create 68 supporters don’t want to duplicate the violence that highlighted the disastrous Chicago convention. Instead, they want to foment political change just as anti-Vietnam War protesters did in the ’60s.
“Forty years ago, younger folks believed that participating in a mass movement could move the country a certain way,” Spagnuolo said. “We want to recreate the spirit that existed then. We want to bring back the change that was in the air.”
The Democrats will take the heat, because their party has refused to end the war in Iraq, fight for real environmental change, or work to end the corporate greed that Spagnuolo believes controls America.
“Nineteen sixty-eight was the last time there was a mass demonstration against the Democratic Party,” he says. “The Democrats have gotten a free pass since regaining control of Congress in 2006.”
Some of the group’s radical comparisons to 1968 have led to a split among progressives. A number of activist groups have separated from Spagnuolo in recent weeks. Still as many as 50,000 activists may hear the call and transform Denver into a 21st Century Woodstock—minus the bad acid. Re-create 68 organizers have pledged to peacefully occupy Civic Center Park. Activists also plan to break curfew laws and claim the park as a “Free City.” If the cops don’t let freedom ring, Fox viewers from coast to coast could feast on the kind of head banging reserved for Megadeth concerts.
Should violence take place, the guilt will be on the hands of overzealous police, not tofu-munching activists, Spagnuolo says.
“I don’t want anyone to be hurt. But we will not be bullied by the city, and we will not let our civil liberties be taken from us,” Spagnuolo says. “The only ones who can recreate the violence of Chicago are the Denver police.”
The comments sound oddly similar to those uttered every October by Spagnuolo and other activists who disrupts Denver’s annual Columbus Day Parade.
The Columbus Day dispute between Native American advocates and Italian-Americans rarely changes. Native American protesters and their supporters pour fake blood in the streets and call Christopher Columbus “Hitler.” They try to take over the street and block the parade while police in riot gear drag them away.
Hundreds are arrested every year.
Multiply that non-violent sit-in by a factor of 100 and you have the kind of politically incorrect brew sure to make John McCain, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity smile come the close of Denver’s big political event.
Then again, Re-create 68 might go off without a violent hitch or smoldering American flag. Spagnuolo is hoping for the best but is ready for a jail cell if things fall apart. Meantime, Re-create 68 organizers have big plans. They will run a free health clinic in the park, serve thousands of meals to the hungry, offer live music and conduct political seminars to energize the public and advocate for popular change.
“We are not just about protests, but we are a model on what a community should be,” Spagnuolo said.