A student’s perspective
Students and other community members alike crowded onto the BX bus heading toward downtown Denver late Tuesday morning. Their mission: leave their mark on history by taking part in Denver’s first Democratic National Convention since 1908.
Some riders chattered excitedly about visiting Denver to sightsee the celebrities and politicians currently in town for Denver’s biggest event in years. Others were hard at work on their Blackberrys and cell phones as they prepared themselves for a day at an internship or job at the DNC. For student journalists, it was the start of a once-in-a-lifetime chance that ultimately turned into complete frustration.
For CUIndependent.com, we were allowed only two press passes per day to cover an entire week of political mayhem and thrill. Because of this limited access, only two reporters were able to cover an entire day’s worth of political history.
Transportation within Colorado’s Mile High City did not help matters. After arriving downtown (and stopping briefly to ogle the live MSNBC set outside Union Station), we had to hoof it the length of 16th Street Mall and beyond to pick up the press passes for the day. Riding the Mall Shuttle was out of the question, as it was jam-packed with volunteers, protestors, businessmen, and members of the media.
Once we were headed back toward 16th Street Mall with press passes gloriously swinging from the lanyards around our necks, we were finally able to take a breather and begin to take in the sights.
From protestors engaging in full-fledged demonstrations about 9-11 conspiracies and anti-abortion pleas to the SWAT teams all geared up and waiting for chaos to break out; from high-class politicians walking the mall with a click of their newly polished shoes to the homeless standing on corners handing out the Denver Voice, we bore witness to it all.
At lunchtime, we stopped by Noodles and Company to grab a bit to eat. You could tell that the restaurant owners were doing all in their power to make a good impression on visiting dignitaries in the area. Throughout the course of our meal, we were asked three separate times by servers and managers alike how we were enjoying our meal and whether we needed anything else. Never before had we received such intimate attention from a mere chain restaurant.
While at lunch, a businessman sitting at a table across from us began inquiring as to our experience with the DNC. It turned out he was an employee who worked in a building adjacent to the Pepsi Center. For him, the DNC brought excitement to town, but also came with severe setbacks. Being in such proximity to the Pepsi Center, the man was subjected to rigorous searches of both his car and his body before entering the workplace. His car was searched for bombs each day, and he was forced to submit to metal detectors and being wanded by security.
It was yet another frustration for those affected by the DNC; a fate that we were sure to witness first-hand.
We hiked on over to the Pepsi Center and waited 45 minutes to get through the security line. With body pressed against body, the wait was filled with sweat, funky smells and high anxiety.
Once we made our way over to the Pepsi Center grounds, however, things seemed to start looking up for our CUIndependent.com team. Upon final entrance to the Pepsi Center grounds, we headed over to the towering media tents that were thankfully air-conditioned. Inside, we found an oasis of luxury compared to the sweltering streets of Denver.
A few tents had a special area where members of the press could sit and relax on cushy black couches while they worked on a story with a Sprite or a Coke in hand. Snacks were also available, as was an oxygen bar for press members who had trouble adjusting to Colorado’s high altitude. This was an area to relax and rejuvenate before heading back for the battle to see Hillary Clinton speak.
But, much to our dismay, our two press passes did not allow us ultimate access to the event like we had anticipated. One pass, labeled “perimeter,” permitted us only to access the area surrounding of the Pepsi Center, where we could admire the over-saturated grass and not much else.
The second pass, labeled “hall,” allowed us to actually enter the venue, but prohibited us from going onto the floor. Basically, the pass taunted us by showing us the convention on televisions that were mere feet away from the actual event while snacking on overpriced concessions.
In fact, the only way in which we were to gain access to the convention floor was with a “rotating floor pass” which would provide us complete access to the convention for a whopping half hour.
But a half hour was better than nothing.
After countless misleading signs and false directions from delegates who pretended like they knew the DNC like the back of their hand, we ended up waiting in a twenty minute line for our mere thirty minutes of glory.
But those few precious minutes were stolen away as quickly as they were given to us. Just minutes before Hillary’s speech, they closed the doors to the floor.
Screw fire safety standards, we wanted our fix of Hillary!
We desperately ran to every entrance and begged with every security guard, but no amount of sweet talk would gain us the forbidden access.
Until we reached the third floor, where we were allowed a tiny peek at the last five minutes of what was going on inside and enabling us to take a photo of a microscopic Hillary.
Things would have been so much better had we represented the NY Times or CNN. But, what can we say? It’s all in a day’s work of student journalists!
Contact News Editor Kate Spencer Katherine.Spencer@colorado.edu and Opinion Editor Sara Fossum at Sara.Fossum@colorado.edu