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.

That he could handle, though. But the end of his involvement with Woodbine was tougher. "It's been very difficult for myself to try to reconcile what the hell happened," Spagnuolo said. "I went through a lot of shit at the City of Longmont with lawsuits and stuff. And they even treated me in a more respectful way when I walked away from the project there."

This latest blow came from within his own community. "Are we so far into a colonized world that we can't break out of it?" he wondered. "The most depressing thing to me is you've been spending your whole life on this and here's your chance to do it, and can we actually do it? Am I just bullshitting myself?"

He rubbed his face and took a breath, then grabbed his bullhorn. He had a protest to lead.

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.

Larry Hales wasn't alive in 1968. But the thirty-year-old R-68 organizer sees the protests at that convention as a good motivator for today's protest movements. "It was a year when a lot of things came together. The Black liberation circle. Anti-war," he says. "All these ideologies came together and were willing to confront the state and were doing so in a lot of different ways. But it was a spirit, the idea behind it, that has been missing since 1968." And so he likes the name of the group.

Others do not.

"To me, it shows an incredible lack of history to what happened there and the people who were injured," says Councilman Brown. "The fact that people couldn't go downtown and work. The amount of money that was spent. It took Chicago more than a decade to get over that national black eye. It certainly hurt the Democratic Party."

The name has even proven controversial with other progressive groups.

Bill Vandenberg, director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition, says his members haven't yet decided if they will be involved with R-68 — and the name is playing into their reluctance. "Personally, I feel that not only does it give images of Chicago '68 beatings and violence, it doesn't inspire us to look toward a progressive future, either," he says. "It's looking in the rearview mirror."

United for Peace and Justice, a national network of 1,400 groups planning to organize around the DNC and RNC just as they did in 2004, probably won't work directly with R-68. "For me, the point is not to re-create something that happened forty years ago," says Leslie Cagan, a national UPJ coordinator. "The global politics are different, the national politics are different, our movement is different."

The ANSWER Coalition will carry out a full-scale mobilization for the DNC protests, says national coordinator Brian Becker, with bus transportation and car caravans from the West Coast, East Coast and Midwest chapters. The group has been in contact with R-68, he adds, but ANSWER is holding off on deciding whether it will join up.

The Troops Out Now Coalition and the Rainforest Action Network have signed on, says Hales. But other large national groups have been reluctant, partly because the R-68 leadership has declined to issue a statement of non-violence, leaving peace and pacifist groups in a tough spot.

"If you don't have an absolute non-violence code," explains Betty Ball, co-director of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, "what happens is there's going to be the interpretation from the media to the general public that 'Oh, there's going to be violence.'"

David Chandler, a co-director of the Colorado Green Party, says the dispute over R-68's protest style has prompted some activists to consider forming a rival organizing group around the DNC. "Spagnuolo may come out as no-violence," he says, "but the tone of what he has been saying to the media certainly would make you concerned."

According to Spagnuolo, pressure from peace groups has prompted R-68 to consider drafting a modified non-violence statement. "It'll be along the lines of 'We will not be instigating any violence against any living being. We reserve the right for personal and community self-defense,'" he says.

And they may need to, according to Claire Ryder, chairwoman of the Denver Green Party, who was at the Columbus Day protest. "I don't recall ever seeing the Denver police being quite that bad," she says. "And I've been kicked and tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed."

A similar overreaction by cops was what caused the riots at the 1968 DNC, she says, with footage of police and National Guard troops using billy clubs, tear gas and pepper spray to beat back crowds in Grant Park widely played in the mass media. "I have far more problem with police in Denver and how they're going to treat the protesters" than with the R-68 name, she continues. Authorities "are just going to create another police riot. And I was hoping that wasn't the way Denver was going to be perceived by the world, but apparently it is."

But Mayor John Hickenlooper is not Mayor Richard J. Daley, who sought to control the protesters the same way he controlled the city of Chicago: with all-powerful, autocratic efficiency. Chicago cops were unleashed to respond with the same chaotic anger that was being directed toward them, with the added edge of police weaponry.

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