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In Denver, Police and Protesters Try to Prepare for Each Other

Two days before the start of the Democratic convention, police patrol Cuernavaca Park in Denver. The city has spent a year gearing up.
Two days before the start of the Democratic convention, police patrol Cuernavaca Park in Denver. The city has spent a year gearing up. (By Joshua Duplechian -- Rocky Mountain News Via Associated Press)

What, exactly, can Denver expect this week? That's difficult to predict, experts said. Conventions have transpired without major unrest since riots broke out at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Four major protest groups -- one called Recreate '68 -- plan to demonstrate in Denver, mostly to demand more rights for immigrants and an end to the Iraq war. Organizers said they expect more than 25,000 protesters to participate, with the stated goal of derailing convention proceedings.

Denver already has experienced a few security scares. Sen. John McCain's area headquarters here received an envelope containing white powder last week, and four employees went to the hospital for examination before officials determined the powder was not lethal. Earlier in the summer, a marijuana advocacy group gathered downtown and started beating people with bats. Police rushed to the scene -- only to realize the protest was staged and the bats were inflatables.

In the local newspapers, Denver officials have outlined several worst-case scenarios: Protesters might chain themselves together with chicken wire, use quick-setting cement to block streets or threaten delegates with violence. One city councilman said anarchists had rented a house in Denver and stocked it with urine, which would be sprayed on crowds as they entered the Pepsi Center.

Protesters denied all of the above.

The protest groups responded by outlining a worst-case scenario of their own. Law enforcement officials might arrest nonviolent demonstrators and use aggressive force whenever necessary, protesters said. The groups described an arsenal of high-tech weaponry they expect to encounter: guns that shoot sticky film and rubber bullets; machines that emanate ear-piercing sound waves; microwave devices that create a burning sensation on the skin.

Denver said it will not use any of the above.

"Basically, what's happening is a cat-and-mouse game," said Adam Jung, organizer of a protest group called Tent State University, which plans to demonstrate in a 50,000-foot "freedom cage" outside the Pepsi Center. "The city keeps coming up with new restrictions on us, and we figure out ways to get around them. That's how it's going to go, until one of us gets the last word."


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