Off Limits

Net change

Our award for the most sweeping agenda and the most "isms" of any protest signage at last Saturday's Transform Columbus Day Alliance protest march goes to a group of young, black-clad rabble-rousers whose banner read: "Anti-Racist Action Denver: Combating Racism, Fascism, Sexism, War, Homophobia, and Oppression."

Faces obscured by bandannas, these good guys and girls taunted the first squadron of riot police that the marchers encountered as they neared the intersection of 22nd and Blake streets. "Whose streets?" they shouted. And before the cops could answer, they responded to their own query in forceful unison: "Our streets!"

But as they got a closer look at the riot squad, one of their fellow marchers wondered aloud, "Look at those guns. What the fuck are those?"

Indeed, many of the Denver Police Department's 600 riot-gear-outfitted cops on hand for Saturday's festivities were armed with weapons that appeared to be taken from the pages of hyper-violent, futuristic Japanese manga comics rather than Guns & Ammo.

One officer explained to an Off Limits correspondent that his huge, hose-connected, wicked-looking rifle was in fact a "paint-pellet dispenser" that would fire oversized paintballs loaded with colored dye. The idea, the officer explained rather tersely, was to both repel a violent mob -- "paintballs sting a little" -- and to mark law-breaking demonstrators for arrest, should they, say, bust though a barricade and later attempt to blend back in with a peaceful crowd.

Also on hand for non-lethal crowd control, according to the cops, was a pepper-spray Super Soaker and some sort of sonic device that emitted ear-piercing wails -- both of which bore a striking resemblance to plasma ray guns. One poker-faced officer told a marcher that his gun could shoot a massive net 150 feet up the air, and the net would then float down over the crowd and entangle it like a school of tuna.

"No way!" the marcher said.

"Yeah," said the cop.

"No way!" the marcher repeated.

The cop pursed his lips and shrugged.

In the intersection at 22nd and Blake, a cop with a bullhorn and a script shouted that the protesters who were blocking the progress of the Columbus Day Parade, which had started at 27th and Blake, should "disperse immediately." He couldn't really be heard, since his bullhorn was turned off. No matter. The tension defused when the protesters symbolically turned their backs on the pro-Columbus Day marchers and then slowly headed back to the State Capitol for a rally.

As he was leaving, one man wearing a red satin jacket emblazoned with the words "American Indian Movement Security" shook hands with the white-haired, bullhorn-wielding cop. "Thanks," he said.

No arrests were made, no one was blasted with paint pellets, no plasma rays were deployed, and no giant nets rocketed skyward.

Same time, next year.

Throwing the book: During her 24 years representing Colorado's 1st congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic firebrand Pat Schroeder never shied away from a confrontation.

Still, even she was taken aback when Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken took off after each other on the panel she moderated last May at a book expo in Los Angeles. "I needed a whip and a chair," remembers Schroeder, who's now head of the Association of American Publishers. "It was wild. I'd thought, 'They're pros, they're going to behave themselves.' I was wrong."

Half of that tag team hits town this week when Franken arrives at the Tattered Cover LoDo on October 16 to tout his new book, Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, which just bumped O'Reilly's Who's Looking Out for You? from the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list. The timing has to be sweet, since O'Reilly's employer, Fox News Channel, had sued Franken and his publisher over their book's tagline: "A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."

"Fair and Balanced," of course, is Fox's trademarked slogan -- if not Fox's actual journalistic stance.

In Lies, Franken takes on not just O'Reilly, who anchored at Denver's Channel 7 in the late '70s, but another former Coloradan, Karl Rove -- the Republican redistricting mastermind whose home town of Kokomo is now buried beneath a pile of tailings from the Climax mine outside of Leadville. Perhaps that explains "a man whose fleshy and formless physique belies a heart as cold and steely and deadly as a discarded refrigerator with the door still attached," writes Franken.

"In an elementary school playground during a Minnesota winter."

That's a good line. And Schroeder, too, has gotten off more than her fair share of bons mots -- or, as Washington Post reporter Lloyd Grove described it, a "bonbon with a razor inside." In "Queen of the Quip," a chapter in the just-released book Pat Schroeder: A Woman of the House, by Scripps Howard News Service (and former Rocky Mountain News) reporter Joan Lowy, you'll find just a few of them. "Women who sleep around in this city are called sluts," Schroeder said during the Senator Bob Packwood sexual-harassment controversy. "Men who do it are called senators."

Until the 1980s, she said, Congress was "the planet of the guys." She told Newsweek, "Everyone here checks their spines in the cloakroom." The rich and privileged belonged to "the lucky sperm club." After the Republican landslide in 1980, she said, "It's nice to be out of the Alamo and still alive." And, yes, Schroeder also cloned the term "the Teflon president" for Ronald Reagan.

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