Adam Jung will be camping out every night during the Democratic National Convention in Denver next week. But it’s not because the 28-year-old economics and political science major is hoping to score tickets to Thursday night’s speech by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama.
No, Jung will be bunking down in the “Freedom Cage” (also known as the protest zone outside the Pepsi Center, where the convention is taking place) as part of a weeklong series of protests organized by Tent State University to urge an immediate end to the Iraq war.
“The Republicans don’t expect us to vote for them, because they turned their backs on us before I was even born,” Jung said, explaining why the protests are taking place during the DNC — where one would expect the group’s anti-war message to be well-received — and not at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. “The Democrats claim us as their base. They expect us to vote for them, but we want to make it clear that they can’t take our votes for granted. If Obama is not going to end the war, he’s no better than the other candidates.”
This is the kind of strident tone Jung is expert at, and one he’s learned to adopt through earlier Tent State protests he participated in at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. Tent State is a 5-year-old organization that has staged protests across the country in which tent cities are erected to help young people “take back their campuses and communities” by offering alternative teachings on a host of causes.
Jung’s message will get some serious publicity this week, thanks to the headliners of the Tent State Music Festival to End the War, Rage Against the Machine . Rage, along with the Flobots, the Coup, State Radio and former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, will take the stage at the Denver Coliseum on August 27 for a free show being put on in conjunction with the Iraq Veterans Against the War.
“I think it’s no secret that the Obama campaign has been incredibly exciting, and we all want to be down,” said Flobots MC Jonny 5, whose group is from the Denver area. “I think there’s an overarching sense of hopefulness and a chance to reclaim the county from what we’ve seen during the last eight years.”
Though the Flobots are supportive of the Obama campaign and excited to participate in some other official events surrounding the DNC, Jonny 5 said that they also realize there is still a need for “courageous” people to stand up and speak out against the war in Iraq.
“I think it’s really important that [Tent State] is youth-led, and at our shows we’re getting a sense of who this next generation is, 16-to-17-year-old kids whose first real memory of any foreign policy event is September 11, then the war in Iraq for five years and Katrina,” he said, adding that the Flobots are happy to take up the mantle of their musical forefathers, such as Public Enemy and Rage, and try to speak for the communities they come from. “There are people who are rejecting what’s happening while they’re hopeful about what can happen, and we’re trying to support that.”
Jung is optimistic about what Tent State can achieve during the DNC, predicting that 30,000 people will join the protests, which also include such creative events as Funky Snake Marches on downtown streets, Freedom Toast breakfasts at the Freedom Cage every morning and the erection of mock checkpoints around Denver to “mimic the experiences we force on people in Iraq, Palestine and on the U.S./Mexico border.”
“Our actions are aimed at the delegates and reminding them of the power they hold in crafting the platform and pushing the candidate,” said Jung, who has been living on “lots of Ramen noodles” while planning the protest for more than a year with a group that now numbers over 100 volunteers.
While Jung hopes the media takes notice of his group’s actions, he is adamant that Tent State’s goals are to stay within the laws and not disrupt the convention. That’s why the group agreed to abide by Denver’s no-sleeping-in-public-parks rule. But they’re bristling at a just-passed ordinance that allows the police to arrest any protesters wielding bicycle U-locks if officials suspect they might use the locks to form barricades. (Jung seems just fine with another ordinance that bars protesters from using noxious substances, such as feces.)
“This is their worst nightmare because they didn’t want us near the convention center, but we found a legal way to do it, and it brought them more embarrassment,” he said of the overnight camping plan.
In the end, regardless of what happens with the protest, Jung said he didn’t think anyone should put all their hope in one candidate to end the war. “The best case scenario is acknowledgement from Obama … [that] the longer we stay [in Iraq], the worse the resistance and anti-American sentiment will be. [But] we also want a revitalized youth movement, because the biggest failure of the anti-war movement has been … re-creating 40-year-old tactics. Once the youth take charge, which is happening here and in St. Paul, I think we’ll be more effective in bringing a swift end to this war.”
And don’t worry about missing out on the action: MTV News and our Street Team ’08 will be on the ground at both conventions to sort through all the speeches, streamers and ceremony to find the information you need to choose our next president. And head to Choose or Lose for nonstop coverage of the 2008 presidential election. And after history is made in Denver, MTV News will help you make sense of it all in “Obama Decoded,” premiering Friday, August 29 at 7:30.