A New Movement

Need more port-a-potty politics? Read about protesters' vaunted House of Urine here.

For months now, a cloud has hovered over Denver — a brown cloud. But this one is different than the one that draped the city in the '80s; it's darker, more musky and primal, generated not by car emissions, but verbal ones. It deals with poo.

In anticipation of the Democratic National Convention, there has been more public debate about feces and urine than at any time in Denver history.


Democratic National Convention

For some journalists, there comes a moment in their career when they can no longer remain on the sidelines. For me, the breaking point came in mid-July at a Denver City Council safety committee meeting, where police chief Gerry Whitman and other officials were making a pitch for a ban on certain "protest tools," such as tripods and elaborate obstruction devices. Then, as it has so often in recent weeks, the discussion turned gross.

I'd gotten used to strange dialogue coming from the one or two truly insane conspiracy theorists who always seem to show up at protester meetings, talking about government torture methods involving buckets of diarrhea or something. But these were some of Denver's top elected representatives and safety personnel, discussing in detail all the ways that feces and urine might be thrown, hurled or sprayed at the DNC. I looked around, but all my fellow observers remained stoic, as if there were nothing more normal and professional than a pithy deliberation on the subject of turds.

That was when I knew something had to be done. Someone had to take action to negotiate a truce between the city and protesters before this fecal frenzy got out of hand. I decided to form the group Normal Citizens Rising Against Poo (NoCRAP) and then crafted the Denver Doo-Doo Accord. I expected weeks of mediation before the disparate and fractured DNC protest groups would agree to lay down their fecal and urine weaponry. But since none of these groups ever intended to utilize anything resembling human excrement in their protests, all it took was a few phone calls before Recreate 68, Tent State University and the anarchist Unconventional Action enthusiastically committed. Even random Denver citizens have begun signing on to the accord, at blogs.westword.com/demver.

Now, I don't want to compare myself to Jimmy Carter, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and/or Nelson Mandela, but just like those great peacemakers, I knew I couldn't rest. The next step was to get the same pledge from the Mayor's Office, the police, Secret Service and members of City Council. This turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated.

Monday night was the public hearing for the proposed ordinance to give police the power to confiscate certain protest tools and arrest anyone they believe has the intent to illegally disrupt the convention — even if that person hasn't yet done anything. One of the key provisions is the ban on "noxious substances." I made sure all the council members and their staffs had received copies of the Doo-Doo Accord in hopes that a feces-free platform would bring everyone together. But during the public comment period, R-68's Glenn Spagnuolo chastised councilman Doug Linkhart for "fear-mongering" on the feces and urine issue, adding that the only excrement to be concerned about is the "shit that comes out of his mouth."

Damn! Another R-68 member, Tom Mestnik, gave an impassioned, slam poetry-style performance with full-on props displaying other potential protester weapons that should be banned, such as Viking warships and Harry Potter wands. It became clear that my negotiations were breaking down. Although Adam Jung of Tent State University formally called for the council to sign the Doo-Doo Accord and even passed around some of the special NoCRAP buttons I'd made, featuring a little pile of poo with a line through it, there were no takers. Instead, council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance.

The only bright spot was when councilman Rick Garcia called the Doo-Doo Accord "another important step toward cooperation with the city." So I'm thinking that might be a small opening upon which we can build.

On August 11, the protesters will be holding a public signing of the treaty and are asking that the city also commit.

I'd better make some more buttons.


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