Tent State University Protest — A Few Miles From The DNC — Hasn’t Drawn Too Many Students

Organizers predicted tens of thousands would flood Cuernavaca Park in downtown Denver as part of the Tent State University anti-war protests going on all this week during the Democratic National Convention.

Maybe they were taking a walk when we stopped by today, but just a day before Rage Against the Machine are scheduled to headline a show in support of the protest, the scene at the far-flung park — several miles from the Pepsi Center — was more like a Sunday picnic with your mellowed-out buds than a 1960s-style revolutionary effort to disrupt the Dems’ party. Local media had reported some clashes between anti-war protesters and other anarchist groups since Sunday, including an intense clash just blocks from the Pepsi Center last night, during which police used their pepper-ball rifles to disperse crowds near the 16th Street mall and later arrested 90 protesters.

More on the Tent State University protest plus photos after the jump.

But the scene at Tent State was way, way mellower. Amid a smatter of a few dozen tents hawking organic clothing, supporting marijuana legalization and a full-size replica of one of the tiny cells holding terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the massive park was mostly empty on this sweltering afternoon, with a few shirtless men dozing under the shade of trees and a handful of bored-looking bicycle police leaning on their rigs across the way.

(Check out more photos in our 2008 DNC photo gallery)

Chris Scully, a volunteer who is helping the Tent State masterminds keep things organized, said it’s been pretty quiet since around 10,000 or 12,000 people turned up on Sunday to sign up for tickets for the Rage show. By yesterday, he said the number was about half that, and today, among the 100 or 200 people in the park, the biggest portion were squatting on the ground under tents signing up for their shot at tickets to the show.

In one corner, an elderly speaker on the Martin Luther King Jr. Classroom stage was discussing the origins of the anti-war movement to a small group crammed under a tent together to maximize the shade, but nobody seemed to know where Tent State organizer Adam Jung was. “Um, maybe he’s out doing the protest or something?” offered one volunteer in the medical tent; Jung didn’t answer his cell phone when we called.

Iraq veteran Ben Schrader, 28, there with the Iraq Veterans Against the War, was doing interviews and talking about what he hopes Senator Barack Obama says Thursday night during his speech at Invesco Field.


Michael Gorniak, 26, was doing — well, we’re not entirely sure. As his ballerina girlfriend spun in circles and smacked a drum along to the Doors tune “Break on Through,” the beatific Gorniak attempted to explain the concept behind his company Original Te.

Handing out free T-shirts bearing the company name and adorned with a tree growing in two directions, Gorniak said he’s spending the money he received from a college fund he didn’t need — he got scholarships to pay for undergrad and graduate school — to start a company that will “teach kids to make films. We’re going to raise funds by making films, doing concerts and using the Internet,” he said. “The name is based on an old Hindu, I mean Chinese philosophy, and the idea is, we’re going to support the community and not hold each other down. I had a choice: I could have been a drug addict or tried to change things.”

Right on. Right on.