by Ted Manna
American Reporter Correspondent
April 23, 2008
DENVER, April 22, 2008 -- The lights are strung and the banners are hung. The Pepsi Center is ready for the Democratic National Convention, which starts Monday and runs through Thursday.
Months of work have transformed the stadium, dubbed "The Can" by locals, from a multipurpose sports arena for the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche into a slick, multimedia throne for the coronation of the presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama.
The public tour attended Saturday by thousands of Coloradans is the closest anyone without credentials will get to the inside of the Convention. But the so-called party of the people doesn't want anything to do with them: The outside protest area, ringed by 12-ft.-high chain-link barriers, is behind a huge media tent right next to the Pepsi Center. The only part of the Pepsi Center dissenters will see is the very top, through a fence. The public is not invited.
And that's a lot more than Denver residents will get to see until the Avalanche season opens Oct. 12. Even the hockey team's players were going through S.W.A.T. training this weekend at the National Strength & Conditioning Association's Human Performance Center in Colorado Springs.
The many groups who plan to demonstrate at the convention have complained that they are not within "sight and sound" of the delegates, and the placement of the "holding pen" seems like it was designed to keep the activists away.
The media has complained that their tent will be in the dorect path of the demonstrators if things go awry, as things at Democratic convention centers did in 1968 in Chicago and in 2000 in Los Angeles, where police on horseback ran down a number of protestrs in a "free speech" area on Olympic Blvd.
All criticism aside, the Pepsi Center has never looked better. The half-hour tour allowed residents to take pictures of the beautifully lit podium, and there were plenty of "ooh's and aah's" from the crowd. Onlookers jostled to get their pictures taken with the backdrop of the colorfully spotlighted podium where vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden and former First Lady Hillary Clinton will speak next week.
Sen. Barack Obama opted to avoid the Pepsi Center for his acceptance speech and will speak instead at the Colorado Rockies' Mile High Stadium to an anticipated crowd of 75,000 people.
When the Convention starts, however, there will be a buffer zone around the Center, and security will only allow credentialed press, delegates and the hordes of volunteers through the cordon. Nearby streets, light rail stations and even the US Post Office will be closed for the duration. A series of chain-link cages will await demonstrators arrested by Denver police. Those are about seven miles from the Pepsi Center.
The American Reporter was denied convention credentials after being granted them for the last three Democratic and Republican conventions, but House Press Gallery and Democratic officials offered no cogent explanation. "We think it was a personal vendetta," American Reporter editor Joe Shea said. "It surely was not for a lack of contributions" to Democratic and Republican candidates, he said.
The tension and hype is understandable. After all, it was 100 years ago, in 1908, that the city hosted a Democratic Convention. William Jennings Bryan, the nominee, didn't make it to the White House.
Present-day Democrats hope for a more successful outcome. They will need the people they didn't invite to do that, though.