My agenda was the first indication that Wednesday, August 27th, would be a rousing day for me. However, I did not expect that it would become fulfilling and spark great energy on the streets of Denver. I did not know or fully understand the brilliance and shrewdness of Iraq Veterans Against the War’s (IVAW) move to confront Obama.
At 11 am yesterday, IVAW sponsored a concert along with Tent State University. The concert was headlined by none other than Rage Against the Machine.
Rage Against the Machine, along with a popular band in Denver known as The Flobots and The Coup and State Radio, pulled in a crowd of somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 people. (The Denver Coliseum, where it was held, can seat about 10,000 people.)
This crowd was a mixed bag. Some in attendance were there from the beginning to march down to the Pepsi Center with IVAW in solidarity with their demand that Obama adopt their “three points of unity.” But, many were simply there for Rage Against the Machine, a band that has a stunning way of politicizing a crowd thanks to the very lyrics of their music.
IVAW’s message focused in on the need for the people to support G.I. resistance and also indicated that they wanted to make sure Barack Obama knew what he was going to do when elected president.
Since a large amount of people there had no plans to march, organizers had to convince them or supply reasons why they should be out in the streets with IVAW.
A Tent State University representative provided some of that reasoning at one point saying:
“They’re not some politician telling you, feeding you sh*t. They’ve actually been there. They’ve experienced it. These are the people that we need to be listening to. These veterans have a message for you today. And they need you to help them take their message to the politicians at the Pepsi Center. So, we need to take all this energy and we need to march. We need to make it nonviolent and passionate. We need to do it with dignity. We need to support Iraq Veterans Against the War.”
IVAW came out later during the concert to show people how the march would function. IVAW would stand in formation in uniform at the front of the march. A banner would stand about ten feet behind and behind that banner all the people standing in solidarity with IVAW would follow.
The march was unpermitted and so when people were entering the Denver Coliseum, they were notified that they would be risking arrest along the way.
They were also informed that the bands who played the concert would be holding the banner and following IVAW down to the Pepsi Center.
IVAW was prepared to make it difficult for any sort of arrests to occur, for any sort of confrontation to break out.
The veterans ingeniously set it up so that if at anytime the police said they could go no further, those wishing to risk arrest would be asked if they wished to cross a line and move forward with IVAW. A leader of IVAW would march forward and present the police with a flag folded in the shape of a triangle (folded in the way it would be at a flag-folding ceremony). All present would become silent and a trumpet player from IVAW would begin to play taps. Taps would ring throughout the streets of Denver making it difficult for the police to make a move, making it difficult for politicians and people watching to not find the IVAW’s actions for the day righteous.
Ron Kovic, a man who has been protesting war from a wheelchair for 40 years now and a man who is a Vietnam veteran, spoke to the people in the Coliseum:
“This is our country. This is our country. They’re not going to take this country from us. They’re not gonna shut us up. They’re not gonna shut us down. We will not bow. We will not stray. We will stand tall. We will march. We will end this war. We’re gonna bring all the troops home. We will do this nonviolently. We will do this with dignity and the spirit of Martin Luther King and the spirit of Nelson Mandela. We are going to make history in the streets of Denver today. The whole world is watching. The whole country is watching. I want you to make a commitment. I want every single one of you to look at me. Look at my brothers and sisters. Recognize the sacrifice that we’ve made and the love of country we have. Our determination to change the course of history, to change this country. I want you to find the courage within your hearts to step over that line today to join with us, march with us and let the world see what this country that we love see who you are. Lastly, Mario Savio once said, “A time comes when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part and you’ve got to put your body on the gears, upon the levers, upon the whole apparatus, and you’ve gotta make it stop. And you’ve gotta let those operating know that unless you’re free, the operation will be prevented from working at all.”
The stage was set. Rage Against the Machine came out and stood in formation with IVAW and when IVAW marched off, Rage played a deafeningly exhilarating concert.