A Day Without Immigrants: Mid-rally observations in Denver

Editor's note: This articleorginally appeared in the Denver Westword's blog during the nationwide May Day protests for immigrant rights.


A day without legislators: Every window of the State Capitol, where thousands upon thousands of marchers congregated, was occupied by representatives, aides or other government employees taking pictures of the huddled masses with cheap-looking digital cameras or cell phones. Besuited politicians also lined the balcony directly over the Capitol's main entrance, standing alongside state troopers wearing Dudley Do-Right hats and observing the throng through binoculars. The scene was an opportunity lost for Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Dave Schultheis. While his colleagues were otherwise occupied, he could have passed anything — a bill making the singing of the National Anthem in Spanish a crime punishable by death, a measure outlawing Taco Bell — and no one would have been the wiser.

Make mine to-go: The quality of the food available in the area of the Capitol and Civic Center Park improved dramatically during the rally. My apologies to the guy carrying the enormous taco salad, who must have thought I was a stalker. And I was: a lunch stalker.

Grammar rocks: At the suggestion of event organizers, most rally participants wore white t-shirts as a symbol of their unity — and the most popular slogan on them read "Si Se Puede," which translates to "Yes We Can," according to most mainstream media reports. But not so fast. According to Westword's copy editor, the phrase needs an accent mark and a comma — "Sí, Se Puede" — in order to convey that meaning. Without them, it means, "If It Can" of "If You Can," which send off a much less triumphant-sounding vibe. Given the political uncertainties at the heart of the immigration controversy, however, "If You Can" may be the more accurate motto.

I'm proud of my heritage, too: Amid the sea of white t-shirt wearers stood a young man in a blue T that read, "100 Percent Greek." Opa!

Sound decisions: The sound system on the Capitol steps wasn't exactly rock-concert quality. Beyond a range of about seventy-five yards, the words of most speakers degenerated into mostly unintelligible squawking. The problems extended to a band that took the stage around noon. The combo, which mingled acoustic instrumentation with hip-hop delivery, sounded fine throughout a rousing rendition of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up." But during a tune in which the lead vocalist rapped about a young woman without enough "pesos to get a facial," the volume of his microphone dipped by more than half, and none of the other mikes he tried worked at all. Only chants of "Sí, Se Puede" (not "Si Se Puede") got everyone involved.

What about us?: Predictably, a slew of groups not solely focused on immigrant rights turned up at the rally in an attempt to spread their messages among the multitudes. Michael Huttner, the public face of ProgressNow.org, manned a table at which he promoted his latest creation, a Tom Tancredo-bashing website accessible at RejectTancredo.com; Huttner was resplendent in a priest-collared white shirt that made him look like a visitor from a renaissance fair. Also present were representatives of the American Indian Movement, and either AIM longtimer Glenn Morris or someone who looked an awful lot like him made a real impression on me. As he pushed his way toward the front of the crowd in front of the Capitol steps, an AIM banner he carried whipped me across the face. Moments later, another AIM rep bumped into me from behind with a giant drum, which, when pounded, made it even more difficult to hear what was happening on-stage. In that respect, their AIM was off.

A sign from above: One placard informed passers-by that "GOD LOVES THE ALIEN." I can understand Him digging the first movie, and maybe even the initial sequel — but if he loved the subsequent Aliens, He really must be forgiving. Four doesn't make a crowd: Between 11:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., the only anti-rally protesters I saw were four fellows standing by a TV truck, who seemed puzzled that no one was paying attention to them. If they wind up with considerable face time anyhow, it'll be because stations decided to strike an ideological balance rather than a numerical one. Otherwise, it won't add up.

Out of the loop: As I walked back to Westword's offices, a man trapped in a horrendous traffic jam on Lincoln rolled down his window and asked, "Do you know where the public library is?" I gave him directions — not that he had much of a chance of getting there in less than an hour or two. Hope he enjoyed the ride.

 
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