Recreate '68 Plans to Do Just That

Chicago in 1968 was a place of violence and chaos. Some activists would like to re-create those good old days.

But the DPD is reluctant to discuss how any of that money will be spent. Citing security concerns, spokesman Sonny Jackson declines to talk about police strategy or planning; he won't comment on whether the city is exploring creating a temporary holding facility in the event of mass arrests, as New York did three years ago. "We are preparing for whatever situations may come," Jackson says. "If we need a larger area for detainees, we would be prepared for that. But at the same time, we're not going to disclose where that is going to be, both for the detainees' and officers' safety."

Archuleta and representatives of the DNC host committee have been meeting with R-68 and the ACLU for the past five months, and will step up their discussions as the convention nears. "The mayor is committed to First Amendment rights, but also the safety of citizens and protesters," Archuleta says. "I think the dialogue is the most important thing that can happen, so that we're all aware of what to expect."

Even if that dialogue includes a protest group named after an event that Denver definitely doesn't want to re-create.

Glenn Spagnuolo has been a key player in the Columbus Day protests, Recreate '68 and Woodbine Ranch.
Jim J. Narcy
Glenn Spagnuolo has been a key player in the Columbus Day protests, Recreate '68 and Woodbine Ranch.
Glenn Morris has been fighting Colorado's Columbus Day for almost twenty years.
Jim J. Narcy
Glenn Morris has been fighting Colorado's Columbus Day for almost twenty years.

"I wasn't there in 1968," Archuleta says, "but I would assume that these types of conversations never occurred. We have to plan the best that we can for all possibilities. We've also agreed that sometimes we won't agree, that sometimes there are things that they want to do that are not things we can accommodate. The most important thing is that we're at the table."

DU is a Nazi-sympathizing supporter of terrorism!"

The tourists stepped out of minivans with Nebraska and Utah plates and stared, bewildered, at the scruffy mass of banners, effigies and facial hair screaming in their direction outside the Marriott City Center. One activist in his early twenties let loose with another free-association rant. "Hey, look at the little Eichmanns!" he shouted through his bullhorn, using a line cribbed from Ward Churchill's much-derided 9/11 essay. "Hello, little Eichmanns. Kill any children today?"

Inside the hotel, Wayne Murdy, CEO of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp, was about to receive the International Bridge Builders Award from the University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies. It was a choice that infuriated environmental and human-rights activists, given the gold-extraction company's record of pollution and labor abuses in Indonesia, Peru and Ghana. But since most of the swanky fundraiser's guests were being swept in through a side entrance, the protesters directed their ire at people who had no idea who Murdy was.

"Don't let DU prostitute you guys," Spagnuolo shouted. "You are prostituting yourselves!"

Spagnuolo's first formal training in protest activism came when he attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in the late '80s. Through friends in the gay and lesbian community, he got involved with the radical AIDS awareness organization Act Up, which used theatrical direct-action tactics — such as mass takeovers of government and corporate offices, even churches — that would be picked up by the anti-globalization movement years later. Spagnuolo spent his twenties in various parts of the country, only marginally involved in activism. But his interest in direct-action protest was invigorated in 1999, when demonstrators successfully shut down a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. By then, Spagnuolo was living in Colorado, and though he helped organize caravans to the event, he didn't go himself. "I honestly didn't think it was going to be as big as it was," he says. "And it is one of my bigger regrets."

Though many people describe Spagnuolo as an anarchist, he says his political beliefs are closer to those of a democratic socialist. But he tries not to pigeonhole himself, because sectarianism and dogma is often the undoing of leftist movements. "I'll work with anybody who wants to make a positive change in this country," he insists. "Once this government's gone, then we can sort out how to fix this country. Too many people get sucked into 'I'm a communist, so I don't work with socialists who don't work with anarchists.'"

At the DU demonstration, he kept the energy of the seventy or so protesters high. But Spagnuolo himself was tired. He and Morris, who spent much of the protest beating a drum in a circle of Colorado AIM activists, had been up most of the night discussing Woodbine. A week before, Stavropoulos had told the group that his family in Greece — his mother, technically — was no longer confident that Woodbine would be financially viable in its current incarnation. The original estimates to bring the infrastructure up to code had been low, and as the project progressed, substantial problems with the wiring and plumbing had surfaced. Money was flying out the door, and the Stavropoulos family was afraid it would be left holding the bag. Stavropoulos had told the Glenns that the family was going to accept proposals from other organizations to operate the property.

And then, at a meeting just the night before, Stavropoulos had told Spagnuolo that he was out of the project.

The timing could not have been worse. A month after the Newmont protest came the much larger Columbus Day Parade protest. Since this would be the hundredth anniversary of the holiday getting its start in Colorado, plans called for making the protest bigger and more noisy than in previous years — maybe even stopping the parade altogether, as Morris and others had done in 1992, when they amassed 2,500 demonstrators. But the group had to be careful: Spagnuolo speculated that the powers-that-be would like nothing more than to lock up the town's top political troublemakers on Columbus Day, then tie them up in legal actions for months when they needed to move on to planning the DNC events.

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