Activists Prepare to 'Recreate '68' at DNC

Activists are preparing for the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer. Groups from around the country have coalesced under the name "Recreate '68" — a reference to the year protestors clashed with police at the party's convention in Chicago.

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Activists are getting ready for the Democratic National Convention this summer in Denver in hopes of capturing the spirit of 40 years ago. Groups from around the country have come together under the name Recreate '68. That refers to the year the protesters clash with police during the party's convention in Chicago.

As NPR's Jeff Brady reports, times have changed a bit.

(Soundbite of crowd talking)

JEFF BRADY: Recreate '68 organizers meet in the basement of a funky cafe. It's the kind of place where you can hear poetry, do yoga, and smoked a hookah -that's in sharp contrast to the groups Web site, which is vaguely menacing with a raised fist and the occasional use of the word revolution. Recreate '68 co-founder Glen Spagnuolo says the groups name is not about encouraging violence.

Mr. GLENN SPAGNUOLO (Co-founder, Recreate '68): What we were trying to symbolize with that was recreating the spirit that existed back then, that mass participation and civic engagement can change the direction of your country.

BRADY: About half of the country wasn't even born in 1968. So, it's worth reviewing what was going on. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were fresh in people's minds. The country was sharply divided over the Vietnam War.

And in Chicago, Democrats were about to nominate war supporter and Vice President, Hubert Humphrey.

(Soundbite of protest)

BRADY: About 10,000, mostly young people, protested outside the convention. The pressure-cooker atmosphere extended to the set of ABC Television where commentators Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley tore in to each other.

(Soundbite of archive debate)

Mr. WILLIAM BUCKLEY (Author, Commentator): Now, listen you, (unintelligible), stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in your goddamn face and you'll stay plastered.

Mr. GORE VIDAL (Writer, Commentator): Let's stop calling names…

Unidentified Man #1: Gentlemen.

BRADY: Recreate '68 organizers already have clashed with the city of Denver over where they'll be allowed to protest. The city's head of security for the convention says he's talking with the group and is relatively comfortable all will go smoothly. Most of the protests will take place at parks about 15 blocks from the convention. Sitting in one of them, Recreate '68 co-founder Barbara Cohen says there'll be a different theme for each day.

Ms. BARBARA COHEN (Co-founder, Recreate '68): Sunday is No War, No Occupations Day. Monday is Prisoner Rights Day. Tuesday…

BRADY: Cohen says the group is operating on a tight budget. It has about $1500.

Ms. COHEN: In case we have to get our own porta-potties, we will be having an adopt a porta-potty campaign, where for a $120, you can pay for a porta-potty. And that will give you the right to decorate it.

BRADY: Among the protesters in Denver, maybe a few icons of the 1968 protest.

Bobby Seale co-founded the Black Panthers, he was one of the organizers in Chicago. But this time, Seale says, he won't march.

Mr. BOBBY SEALE (Co-founder, Black Panther): I mean, I've had a heart attack seven years ago, and I still got scar tissue on my heart and I have a defibulator, so I won't do that.

BRADY: Protesting the Iraq war will take on a personal tone for Seale. His son is an Army reservist heading to Iraq in early June.

Tom Hayden also was an organizer in Chicago. He cautions against drawing parallels between then and now. He says that pressure-cooker atmosphere just doesn't exist in 2008. And the apparent Democratic candidate vigorously opposes the current war, says Haden, who supports Barack Obama.

Mr. TOM HAYDEN (Organizer, Students for a Democratic Society): If there were the theft of a nomination, if that was the perception of the Obama supporters, then probably there would be a '68 scenario, but it would probably nonviolent and massive.

BRADY: Recreate '68 organizers say they have no idea how many protesters will come to Denver in August. They say it could be just a few dozen, or it could be thousands.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

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