Today and tomorrow, June 18 and 19, the annual Western Conservative Summit will take place at the Hyatt Regency Denver, with speakers scheduled to include right-wing favorites such as Representative Lauren Boebert. But they won't have the spotlight to themselves. Taking place outside the hotel will be a rival event, dubbed the Western BLM-Antifa Summit, which promises "two days of fiercely jubilant opposition to the Western Conservative Summit!"
The BLM-Antifa Summit brings together a wide range of progressive activist organizations, including the Denver Communists, the Front Range Mutual Aid Network, WITCH Denver, the Front Range Community Defense Collective, the Anon Resistance Movements, Anti-Repression Colorado and the Denver Action Network.
According to Denver Communists member James Radek, fifty people or more are expected to participate in the opposition event. "We’ll be picketing outside the Hyatt, making noise, giving speeches, yelling at Western Conservative Summit attendees and speakers, and informing passersby of their vile reactionary politics," he says.
In previous years, the Western Conservative Summit, put on by the Centennial Institute, a branch of Colorado Christian University, has taken place at the Colorado Convention Center. In an interview earlier this month, Centennial Institute director Jeff Hunt explained the switch by noting that the Summit was assembled during a period when COVID-19 capacity restrictions were still in place, resulting in a planned in-person attendance of around 500 people rather than the usual crowd of 2,000-plus. But the reach of the Summit would be greater than ever, he added, owing to an online presentation that generated more than 300,000 views across the country for last year's virtual version. Among the 2021 presentations will be the debut of a documentary about Second Amendment rights starring Boebert, who was filmed at a shooting range.
The BLM-Antifa Summit organizers aren't buying Hunt's line. In a release about their event, they argue that "the move across the street to the smaller venue of the Hyatt Regency from the much larger Colorado Convention Center makes clear that their numbers, popularity and name-brand speakers are dwindling. This year, big names have been replaced by lesser losers like local grifter and professional victim Lauren Boebert, Lakewood's anti-gay cake-maker Jack Phillips, Portland's right-wing provocateur and infamous milkshake-wearer Andy Ngo, among various other D-list culture-war reactionaries."
The release adds: "The summit's very theme of 'Frontier Freedom' is a white-supremacist dog-whistle and an insult to the Indigenous peoples of Colorado. Their choice to hold this meeting on Juneteenth is clearly racist. Their choice to feature noted anti-LGBTQ+ bigots during Pride Month is not a coincidence. The summit's move to a non-union venue exploits Denver workers, including the majority-immigrant service staff at the Hyatt Regency, who will be subjected to two days of racism and xenophobia."
Although the rival gathering could be seen as a tacit admission that the Western Conservative Summit still matters, Radek stresses, "We don’t mind bringing more attention to the far right. They won’t go away if we ignore them. Like mold, they grow better in the dark. Our approach is to shine the light on them and loudly confront these worms whenever they crawl out of their holes. We want to convey our opposition to the summit’s white nationalism, misogyny and animosity toward immigrants. They say 'Make America Great Again.' We say, 'America Was Never Great!'"
As for the BLM-Antifa Summit's message, Radek offers this: "Nobody is coming to save us! Certainly not the Democrats, who are the far right’s partners-in-crime, not their opponents. We cannot rely on the cops, courts and liberal politicians to beat back rising fascism. Voting for one capitalist party to stop the other — lesser-evilism — won’t work. Fighting fascism ultimately requires the independent organization of working class and oppressed people."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.