More tales from the Democratic Convention
As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Aug. 1, 2004
BOSTON _ Pundits and critics have complained that last week’s Democratic convention was a scripted production without a trace of spontaneity or real drama.
Indeed, Wednesday morning at the New Mexico delegation breakfast, John Pound -- a Santa Fe lawyer who headed John Kerry’s state campaign during the New Mexico Presidential Caucus season -- discussed plans for a t.v. moment that would take only a few seconds later that night -- the ritual roll call vote, when all the state delegations official cast their votes for Kerry.
At the convention, Pound was one of two New Mexicans who, during the floor sessions, was stationed in “The Tank,” a room that in Pound’s words, was in “the bowels” of the FleetCenter. His job was where his job was to keep an eye on how the delegation looked on television. He had to make sure the delegates held up the right sign at the right time, etc.
As far as Wednesday night’s roll call was concerned, New Mexico’s Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who was the head of the delegation, would do the talking for the delegation. The question, Pound said, was who would get to gather around the lieutenant governor when she cast the vote.
“It’s a human tendency to want to get up by the New Mexico banner to be on television,” Pound told the delegates. But he said delegation leaders were deciding on which people would get to surround Denish for that moment. He said the decision would be made on factors including ethnicity, gender and other factors, the goal being to reflect the state’s diversity.
Stand-off on Canal Street
But early Thursday evening there was a potential outburst of drama and spontaneity outside of the convention hall that few wanted to take place -- a confrontation between police and protesters.
Earlier in a week a Boston police officer walking through the so-called “Free Speech Zone,” a stark fenced-off area near the FleetCenter, told a reporter while the protests had been low-key up to that point, large numbers of “anarchists” to come to town on the last day of the convention.
“We’re calling Thursday `D-Day,” the officer said.
Indeed, Thursday saw a large influx of anti-war protesters. A few hundred marched up Canal Street to the barricades on Causeway Street near the convention center. Someone burned an double-sided effigy of Kerry and George W. Bush and police responded quickly.
Hundreds of black-clad, helmeted riot police, with chest and shin pads and ominous night sticks formed rows and pushed the protesters back a few yards. And there they stood for the next hour or so in a tense stand-off.
On the other side of the fence on Causeway Street, out of the view of the protesters -- but right in from of the media pavilion next to the convention hall -- another battalion of riot police gathered in rows. Reporters watched from the outside stairway as the officers prepared to replace their fellows on the front line.
But despite the obvious tension, on Canal Street, at the line where police stood almost nose to nose with the demonstrators, it didn’t seem that anyone really wanted violence.
A few yards back from the front line, a man with a bullhorn congratulated the demonstrators for standing up to the police and not backing down.
But none of the protesters were baiting the cops. And though the officers looked grim and Darth Vaderish in their black uniforms and helmets, beneath their visors were worried expressions of men who looked like they’d rather be almost anywhere else.
Things had gotten calm enough that reporter Amy Goodman of the left-wing radio and television show Democracy Now! was able to sit on the ground right up on the front line to tape interviews with demonstrators as police loomed above just a couple of feet away.
As protesters began drifting away, one Boston cop watching the action from about a block away on Canal Street agreed that the storm had apparently passed -- at least for Boston. In fact, according to press reports, the day ended with no serious injuries and only three protest-related arrests.
However he added ominously, “This wasn’t `D-Day.’ You know when `D-Day’ is? August 29, that’s when `D-Day’ is.”
August 29 is the day before the Republican National Convention starts in New York City. Far more protesters are expected there.
Amy, What You Gonna Do?
A few hours after the stand-off, gadfly Goodman had a confrontation with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
She caught Richardson immediately after he had been on a panel discussion on Larry King Live to talk about Kerry’s acceptance speech.
Though Richardson normally is eager to appear on national media, this time apparently he wasn’t.
Here’s a transcript of the brief encounter, cut short by the governor, posted on the Democracy Now! website:
Goodman: Governor Richardson,-- is Kerry’s foreign policy an escalation? He’s talking about more troops in Iraq and talking about the Sharon policy. I'm Amy Goodman with Democracy Now! Radio and Television.
Richardson: No. Senator Kerry is an internationalist. He wants to operate our foreign policy with our alliances, with our allies, and not go it alone.
Goodman: But he's talking about, he's talking about more proof —
Richardson: I'm sorry. Please get that out of my way.
Assumedly the “that” Richardson referred to was Goodman’s microphone.
Salsa as Security Threat
My only bad encounter with authority at the convention was Thursday afternoon when convention security confiscated my jar of Bill Richardson salsa at the X-ray machine in front of the FleetCenter.
The New Mexico delegation was giving away the promotional salsa -- actually it’s Garduno’s restaurant salsa with a promotional label -- at its daily breakfast meetings and at the convention itself.
A delegate had given me a jar at breakfast and I’d stuffed it in my laptop case. I hadn’t thought of any possible problems in getting it through security. After all, the night before comic/commentator Mo Rocca had shown a jar of the salsa during a segment on Larry King Live.
But when the security X-ray machine at the media entrance spotted the jar in my case, an officer told me that I couldn’t take it in. They had nothing against hot sauce or even Richardson. It was the glass jar that concerned them.
He put the salsa on the ground under the machine -- along with seven or eight other jars of Richardson’s salsa.
I went back to retrieve my jar when leaving FleetCenter after Kerry’s speech. However, an officer told me that all the salsa had been emptied and thrown away.
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