After watching the above YouTube video, I’m not sure if I should be angry at Jim or feel sorry for Jim. He’s the Downtown Ambassador flack in the yellow polo shirt who told a group of 9-11 Truth conspiracy theorists they couldn’t hand out DVDs on the 16th Street Mall and suddenly found himself stuck in a whirlwind of freedom-of-speech rants and a bewildering physics lesson in “conservation momentum.”
I, too, have been subjected to many rhetorical spews from Loose Change evangelicals and felt as though I could have lost my cool as Jim does when he finally screams, “You’re all kooks!”
The conversation goes downhill from there.
“I have cited numerous evidence,” the 9-11 activist retorts. “I can get you books to go to!”
“And they’re all written by kooks!” yells Jim.
“‘Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.’ Do you know who said that?"
When Jim doesn’t answer, the Truther holding the camera steps in: “That’s a quote by Abraham Lincoln.”
“You have to learn your history, sir,” adds the other activist.
Oh, snap! Except Lincoln never said the quote. It wasn’t even Thomas Jefferson, as another Truther claims later in the video. It was Howard Zinn. Reverse snap! No matter how shaky the 9-11 theorists’ claims, though, it is odd that Jim told them it was illegal to pass out free DVDs to passersby on the street, since that would seem to be allowed under this little thing I heard about once called the First Amendment.
But it’s not so odd considering that the Downtown Ambassadors program was started by the Downtown Denver Partnership in 2004 as a way to assist tourists and shuffle the homeless and other undesirables off the 16th Street Mall. Though they have no real enforcement authority, Ambassadors are also supposed to report graffiti to clean-up crews for removal, even when that graffiti turns out to be magnets painted by artists as part of a city-sponsored program.
Another “quality-of-life crime” the Ambassadors must keep their eyes peeled for are solicitors or marketing giveaways that haven’t received the blessing of the Partnership, a private organization funded largely by member businesses. This policy was apparently interpreted by Jim to include the 9-11 Truth DVDs being handed out by activists. A supervisor he radios about five minutes into the video confirms this assertion: “They can give out literature. They cannot give out chewing gum, CDs, anything.”
After a momentary shoving match with the activist cameraman, Jim calls the cops. But the officer that arrives sees nothing wrong with handing out DVDs, saying it’s as legally protected as handing out pamphlets. Jim takes off in frustration, the kooks return to their evangelizing, and everything is again right in the world.
That is, until the Democratic National Convention arrives, when activists of all stripes will be using the 16th Street Mall as the prime location for displaying their right to political speech. The Partnership had better figure out its policies; otherwise, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more angry and bewildered flacks in yellow polos this August. – Jared Jacang Maher