A dread-headed man huffed with exasperation as a stream of thousands of people stopped and waited patiently for traffic to pass on a downtown Denver cross-street.
“Occupy did it better,” he said to no one in particular, referring to the once-raucous protests against the “1 percent.”
On this day in downtown Denver, a notably older and calmer crowd of several thousand people filled the stone benches in the bowl of the Civic Center amphitheater, pausing between speeches to sing repurposed gospel songs.
“My taxes aren’t two pages, and I just own a condo,” one speaker said, referring to the scant Trump tax documentation leaked on Rachel Maddow’s show.
After an hour of speeches, the multitudes assembled behind a banner spray-painted with the phrase “FOLLOW THE MONEY” and began to march a mile-long route, moving so efficiently that the organizers at times tried to slow them down.
“I agree with their statement,” said Steve Dread, the Occupy-hardened observer. But to really make a difference, he said, “it should be blocking traffic and fucking everything up. You’ve got to disrupt everything. You don’t have to be violent.”
He wouldn’t get his wish. The largest protest in Denver since the Women’s March was polite to a tee. I saw a single “Fuck Trump” sign.
The rest of the poster-board at this march used varying degrees of witticism to criticize the president. The focus of the march was to demand Trump’s tax returns, which every other candidate for decades had released – but it seems that his purported Russian influences and his growing propensity to bomb other countries also were on people’s minds.
“CHANGE THE LAUNCH CODES NOW,” one sign declared.
I have no idea how many people showed up for Saturday’s event, and the city doesn’t do official estimates – but it was several thousand, at least. It marked a reunion of sorts for people who were swept up in the initial surge of the Women’s March in January, many of whom hadn’t been to a rally since.
Erika Casorso, 30, and Mike Wagner, 32, were on a return trip to Denver from their current home in Albuquerque. They were relieved, they said, to see any degree of political engagement, given the lack of interest they see in New Mexico.
“What’s the opposite of claustrophobic?” Wagner asked, describing the scene in his state. “It’s just nothing.”
A march, Casorso said, is a place not just to send a message but to find rejuvenation among like-minded people. “These are really important, for us to come together,” she said.
And this is not to say that “the resistance” hasn’t been busy over the last few months. Pam Dacus, 59, hadn’t been to a march since January, but she said her entire circle of friends and family has been buzzing about politics
“I think it’s not just passive,” said Dacus, a 31-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “It’s a bigger selection of the population – it’s not just the middle class.”
John Calabretto was impressed by the turnout, even if he’s a little jaded by his time in D.C. “I think, for Denver, it’s been a pretty big size,” he said, adding that he was feeling hopeful. “I think I’d like to see people in this country be more involved.”
Becky Boone, 40, of Boulder, has kept busy with smaller events in the last few months. She noted that this march was “much older,” than what she’s seen lately. “I think people are finding their different niches,” she said.
Sepideh Miller, 38, of Boulder, said she has never before been as politically engaged as she is today. She and Boone (both Denverite readers – hi!) have high hopes for turn-out at the upcoming marches on science and climate change.
“This is more an exhausted and frustrated march,” Miller said of Saturday’s event.
Jerry Garcia, in his early 20s, shared that sentiment. Fears of a deportation crackdown have him feeling like it’s “not the land of the free,” he said.
“Reality is setting in,” said Tyler Kincaid, who along with Garcia was visiting from Milwaukee. “They dropped the largest conventional bomb ever on Syria.”
“Afghanistan,” his other friend, Gilberto Gonzalez, quickly corrected him.
Toward the end of the march, I met one of its most popular participants: Mary Butler, 90, whose “Nasty Woman” shirt is like catnip for us media people. She had traveled from Castle Pines by light rail with her friends Sally Simmons and Brigitte Parker, both 67.
“We’re blue dots in a red sea,” Parker said of their life in Douglas County. And yet they’re still afloat. They even roped their Republican congressman, Ken Buck, into a 90-minute meeting on health care – though he still supported repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Butler had been involved with Democratic campaigns for decades, but this is the most engaged she’s felt since the ’60s, she said. She and her friends are even on the “Russia” committee of their local Indivisible group.
Rick Bryant, 56, is incensed enough that he had attached a little “Fuck Trump” button to his black Hurley ballcap, despite his reservations about cursing.
“I just bought a Trump F-U. That’s the way I feel,” he said. ” … I’m telling people the midterms are coming up. It’s going to take a grassroots movement to make change.”