On Sunday, we went downtown to count the police and watch the Republicans gather. We were turned back at two of the parking lots on the west bank of the river where we usually park, but we were allowed to park on Water Street, just south of Harriet Island. We walked into the park where a few workers were putting up tents in preparation for a concert. Rage Against The Machine was going to be playing later.
We walked along the river to Raspberry Island, where we ascended the stairs to the Wabasha Street bridge and crossed into the city. Kellogg Boulevard was blocked off at Saint Peter. There were ten-foot fences and three police officers barring the way. We walked down Saint Peter, turned left at 5th Street and made our way to Rice Park.
MSNBC had setup a video stage in Rice Park where they were filming some kind of political commentary show. A few people were resting in the shade near the fountain because the day was so hot. It seemed that the people with press tags outnumbered the ordinary citizens out for a stroll. One interviewer with a camera operator was buttonholing people at random. On the west side of the park, all approaches to the Xcel Energy Center were blocked by fences. Police were everywhere. We saw mounted police in full riot gear, down to the face shields covering the eyes of their horses. Nelly was glad to see the horses—she likes horses—, but Belinda was alarmed to see so many police, as if the city of Saint Paul expected some kind of attack.
We sat on the edge of the fountain watching and waiting. Nothing much happened. A protester came by carrying a sign that read “McCain Votes Against Veterans.” I suppose he was a veteran himself. Another protester carried a sign that proclaimed “9/11 Was An Inside Job.”
It was hot. The fountain was cool.
The Landmark building was all fitted out with bunting and flags. We took some pictures and then headed for home. We got back to the bridge as the sun was going down. The river looked lazy in the golden light. There were Coast Guard boats on patrol and several squad cars went racing by on there way somewhere.
The whole experience was surreal: a celebration of freedom surrounded with systems designed to control crowds and exclude people. I don’t know if Denver was like this, too.