It was clear that dialogue had broken down, long before I decided to pick up my camera again. So, while I have training in the journalistic arts, this will not be a journalistic piece. Call it an op-ed. Call it propaganda. Call it what you want.
For more conventional coverage, check out the Boulder Daily Camera article. Though, the best picture their photojournalist caught was run under the Denver Posts' version.
That said, I really don't know what to think.
I remember the Democratic primaries- my first experience of party politics. I was proud that so many in my neighborhood had come out to support Senator Sanders, & proud of the few Clinton supporters who chose to voice their opinions in opposition. However, their opinions amounted to tag lines about "getting things done" while the retorts amounted to nothing more substantial than "business as usual."
I struggled to follow the campaign trail after that. When Clinton & Trump took their respective nominations, debates seemed to... devolve. Our Presidents-to-be no longer looked to address each other, but their respective crowds.
(Continued, including more images below the jump. Click here to go to the full photostory.)
Seems appropriate, in an era of self-censorship. When we can unfollow and unfriend those we don't agree with- why bother with debate?
So, outside Milo Yiannopoulos' talk on CU Boulder's campus on January 25, I was not surprised when the dialogue broke down. Or, never even really started. When I requested comments from Colorado Conservatives media spokesperson, they declined to express anything about his views, simply stating that he's here to exercise his First Amendment rights. Milo Yiannopoulos' audience responded to accusations of fascism and Nazism in kind. That is- with belittling comments & sarcastic signs including "This protest is cute," "All hail god emperor Trump," and "Feminism is cancer."
As the night wore on, the police presence gradually escalated their arms and armor. When I arrived at 5 p.m., most wore standard issue gear, with the addition of basic armor underneath a sweater.
Black-clad Antifa stole & destroyed paraphernalia- including many signs, three of the "make America great again" hats, a confederate flag. Two Nazi flags were burned in protest; these were not stolen but brought for that purpose.
Small clusters of more moderate liberals orbited the core Antifa/Black Bloc protestors. A group from CU'S math department appeared carrying a variety of light-hearted signs, like "Mathematicians against division," chanting slogans such as "Normalize vectors, not hate!" They were collectively a calming force in the tense environment.
By 9 p.m., there was at least 25 officers in full riot gear, each with a large can of pepper spray, & a riot truck stationed across the street from the event.
The night ended with two arrests, as groups of black-clad Antifa protestors scattered into the cold night. One officer used a telescoping baton on a subject as he was in hand- I wish I had more documentation of the moment, but my camera's battery was dry, and my phone would not turn on in its own protest of being subjected to such cold temperatures.
What are the facts? I don't know- at least I have no comprehensive view. I can say this much: rhetoric is escalating. If the event is proof of anything, it's that people are willing to jump to name-calling and trolling, people are afraid, and threatened. I have confirmed evidence of threats towards audience members and protestors, as well as documentation of counter-protestors directly threatening and attempting to identify protestors. The protestors themselves mostly threatened and taunted the police presence. I can also confirm the presence of self-declared "mercenaries" supposedly there to keep protestors in line. Both (all?) sides clearly fear for their constitutional rights. As they should be.
Why was I there? I am not a journalist. I am an artist, a machinist, a maker. But six journalists currently face felony charges after covering inauguration day protests, all federal agency Twitter accounts have been shut down, the EPA is silenced, NPR and PBS are under threat of defunding, and President Trump's office has begun presenting "alternative facts."
Where are we now? In uncharted, and dangerous, territory. I can only commend all involved for general restraint in a very tense environment. Your participation will keep democracy alive in this country as the President wages war on public services and his supporters are self-proclaimed narcissists who "get off to the sound of their own voice." (Really, that is a Milo quote).