Michael Moore was late. The man whose personality is almost as big as his mouth, and for whom both eclipse his documentaries, was an hour late by the time he reached the unusually large crowd waiting for him at Occupy Denver. By the time he arrived, its size was at least twelve times larger than normal: more than 600 people instead of the 50 typical of 6 p.m. on a weekday. By the time he arrived, a point had already been made, albeit quietly.
And when he did appear, the director of Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 wasted little time before presenting a valuable disclaimer. "I am not the spokesperson of this movement," Moore told the crowd. "Everybody is the spokesperson."
Michael Moore speaks to a crowd at Occupy Denver.
Everybody, that is, except for the 1 percent -- a category of people in which Moore might fit more comfortably than the 99, muttered a few while waiting for him.
"Are you here because you want change or because you want to see Michael Moore?" longtime occupier Pat Marsden shouted to the crowd before the filmmaker arrived. "I love Michael Moore, too, but you should be here more often if you really want change. You should be here every day."
Moore's eventual speech, sandwiched before a book signing at Tattered Cover on Colfax, was as passionate as you'd expect from a man perhaps a little bit more infamous than famous, though it was briefer than you'd hope. He spoke of the realities of the economy, of the faces of the 1 percent -- BP looming large among them -- and the unlikely and impressive success of a movement that has somehow earned the approval of 59 percent of the American people in around six weeks, according to the most recent poll.
The crowd for Michael Moore's speech swelled to at least twelve times past its normal size.
"Please know that the rest of the country sees this," he said. "You're not alone. If you remember the other movements, when the Civil Rights movement was six weeks old, it didn't have 59 percent of the American people behind it." But the people he was talking to, those who occupied Civic Center Park for longer than the hour and a half it took to wait for and see Moore, those who weren't holding Doonesbury signs, those who stayed for sloppy joes and snow afterward -- they already knew this. And perhaps that, too, was part of the point. Moore's presence is intended as both a high-five of sorts to the occupiers in the tentless trenches, but it's likely more effective as a means of bringing attention to them and, maybe, of increasing their ranks.
As Moore warned the crowd against provocateurs who might detract from their message, the woman holding his microphone so that he could speak had her own history with agents of discourse. Caryn Sodaro, who has been arrested twice in defense of the occupation and who was assaulted earlier this week by a recent provocateur, smiled and nodded behind the orange vest marking her role on the group's security team. Sodaro, you see, is spending the night.
Michael Moore spoke in the center of a gathering at the occupation's home in Civic Center Park.
"The people who think this is going to die think the winter is going to kill it," Moore said. This part was punctuated by boos. "But we are not going to talk about the symptoms anymore. We're not going to put a Band-Aid on it. We're going right to the core, and we're going to fix it."
Later in his speech, Moore was distracted and then interrupted by detractors, a problem that ironically plagues the group's regular general assembly as well. "Please be mindful of provocateurs," he warned. "They want to ignite something to get a reason to behave violently against you," and then, as he apologized for his need to leave, to speak to a different audience of people who spent $27 on his memoir, "Those in power are scared shitless, and they will try to find a way to turn this into something it isn't."
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As he was drowned out, his final words echoed an earlier message, more a celebration this time than a warning: "You have to think that the Wall Street people are thinking tonight, 'Shit.'"
Ten minutes after Moore left, the crowd he brought with him slimmed down to less than one sixth of its original size.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: ACLU investigates constitutionality and safety of police action."