Police and protesters in Denver


    Protesters are often thought of as annoying, even as a nuisance, but they’re doing nothing more than exercising their first amendment rights.

    Kris Custer, a Denver resident, was out with his interest group before the first presidential debate rallying the attention of others to the “grand puppet show.”

    “They’re both the same,” Custer said. “I voted for Obama back in 2008, I was a big supporter back in 2008.”

    ‘Occupy Denver’ protesters marched down streets near the University of Denver as the debate was nearly underway to voice their opinions for and against the candidates. Photo by Sarah Hill

    Custer said he was let down and said Pres. Obama didn’t keep his promises. He said Obama supported wars, and that disappointed him. He was just one of thousands crying out to the masses for people to listen.

    Protesters at the first presidential debate at the University of Denver rallied for various issues such as anti-abortion, anti-war and even women’s social security benefits. Practically every domestic issue was covered including those who were against Obama, against Gov. Romney, and those, like Custer, who were against both.

    Some were met with positive responses or no response at all. Ken Clark, a radio host in Denver, was picketing the streets with signs saying, “Fire Obama.” Many of these signs could be seen across the University of Denver campus being carried by various picketers put together by freedomworks.org.

    “The biggest thing is there are a lot of people who do agree with us and our idea is to let them known they are not alone,” Clark said. “For the most part, people have been very accepting, even on the other side.”

    Clark said picketers and protesters are simply trying to get a message across.

    Not everyone obviously agrees with every protester’s stance, and not everyone adheres to the rules of polite interaction.

    “We’ve had some real problems, protesting isn’t a cool thing anymore in America,” Custer said. “But it’s not supposed to be a cool thing, it’s about standing up for your rights.”

    Custer said a few people have been angry and violent with him and his group, but they continued to picket and exercise their freedom of speech.

    The University of Denver is a private college, so free speech, especially for such an event as the presidential debate can be regulated. To better manage the throngs of protesters, the Denver Police worked cooperatively with the University of Denver to establish “Speaker’s Park.” The small patch of campus was designated as a free place for people to speak their minds, complete with a stage, audio equipment and portable lavatories.

    Detective John White of the Denver Police said it was good to see a place such as the free speech zone at the debate.

    “That is part of our United States Constitution, we have provided a free speech zone which is an area those individuals can go to and exercise first amendment right,” White said.

    But even with the free speech zone, protesters still came out to the street-corners where the guy with the biggest stick, or megaphone, wins. Shouts projected through bullhorns, speakers or even just cupped hands could be heard on the streets surrounding the university all day.  A crowd of protesters from the “Occupy Denver” movement marched down the streets toward the Ritchie Hall complete with banners, signs and even a giant cardboard Statue of Liberty. On-lookers were noticeably unsettled by the large crowd, but officers encompassed the group to assure everyone that the protesters were there only to voice their opinions and violence would not be tolerated from either side.

    Police were on task all day at various checkpoints to ensure the day would go down without a hitch. Security was tighter than most have seen it with wire fences surrounding campus and cement roadblocks on nearly every surrounding street.

    White said even though the security seemed to be a bit much, the well-being of every citizen was on the front burner.

    “Our primary goal is to work with our law enforcement officers at the local level, state level and federal level for safety.”

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