Happily, they flew me in to….I don’t know really. They didn’t have me teaching anything. I like to think it’s because I’m just that much fun to hang out with, but I tend to doubt it.
We walked past this piece of “modern art” on our way to the event.
Fun Fact: The public art in Denver is a weird mixture of wholesome retro paintings on walls and bizarro world art that looks like it was created by inmates locked in insane asylums.
In an all too typical turn of events, the original set of directions we were supposed to follow to the bar was something like, “Walk two blocks, take a left, walk another block, and you’re there!” In reality, we had to walk roughly a mile and a half and we crossed three bridges before we found the place. During the walk, we kept picking out buildings far in the distance and joking, “Yeah, I bet we have to go THAT FAR to get there — but we did have to go that far each time. Then, when we got there, we found out that the kitchen had closed two hours earlier, which was a problem since a couple of us just wanted a hamburger. So, Glenn Asbury and I bounced out of there, somehow found a hipster sandwich shop (don’t ask) that was still serving food late, and we scarfed down some dinner.
From there we bounced over to the legendary traditional late night gathering for blogging events, Kruiser Cabana. The event consists of everyone heading to Stephen Kruiser’s room and drinking iced beers out of the sink until the early hours of the morning. Although I don’t drink, it was still a good time.
Here are some snaps from that morning.
Fun Fact #2: Bethany Mandel’s tagline used to read “Orthodox Jew w/ tattoos.” The number of tats that Bethany actually has? Three.
Fun Fact #3: In heels, Kristina Ribali is roughly 6′ 2″
From there, things didn’t go as they expected because after they started chanting, bloggers poured out of the conference to take pics and videos. Soon, there were 30 bloggers surrounding 15 Occupy people and chanting things like “We love Koch money,” “Breitbart, Breitbart,” and “We paid for your student loans!” There was lots of chanting, lots of yelling, and Steven Crowder got shoved by one of the female Occupiers.
Sarah Rumpf got this raw footage of the event:
Fun Fact #4: The Occupy Denver protesters voted a dog named Shelby as their leader. Yes, really.
After the fun was over, the conference went on. Here are a few more snaps from the afternoon.
Then, as they started to leave, the same out-of-control, loony chick who started trouble earlier shoved Steven Crowder again and bellied up to him like she wanted to fight, which was perfectly ridiculous. At this point, a death threat was yelled out and several Occupiers made nasty comments as they walked off.
Some other people thought the same way and we had a group of bloggers hanging out in the bar.
Fun Fact #5: If you’re looking for bloggers at an event when there’s no free food or booze available, the bar is always the first place you should look.
Incidentally, Michelle Malkin came back from dinner and hung out for a full two hours just talking to other bloggers.
Day 2: Occupying the Occupiers
Saturday started with some controversy. The Occupy crowd was supposed to be back again, but the police told the Crowne Plaza Denver Downtown Hotel that they didn’t want us engaging with them. So, the hotel’s solution was to say that anyone who went outside and said anything to the Occupiers would be kicked out of the hotel.
Some people got upset about this and blamed the hotel, which really wasn’t fair. It’s a great hotel, the folks there worked hard to accommodate us, and it wasn’t really their fault that our presence was drawing a group of dirty hippie huns into their midst. We’re the one group of people on the planet, other than the police, that moves to engage with people like that and naturally, that alarmed the hotel which has to worry about lawsuits, bad publicity, the reaction of the other guests, etc., etc.
Personally, I think it wasn’t the hotel’s fault, the hotel folks handled it the best way they knew how, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Crowne Plaza Denver Downtown Hotel (PS: Make checks payable to John Hawkins and don’t tell the Koch Brothers or they’ll take it out of my weekly stipend ;)
In any case, it all proved to be a moot point because there was a heavy police presence in the front of the hotel when the Occupiers came by and they apparently decided discretion was the better part of valour and kept on marching. (More on that in just a moment)
The park where the Occupiers were camped out was only a few blocks away and, as it turns out, there were maybe 25 Occupiers on location — and that’s being generous. There was a church feeding several hundred people on the other side of the park and originally, we thought they were part of the Occupy movement. Apparently not.
While there wasn’t much of anything going on (besides a deeply disturbed homeless man having a loud, angry conversation with himself), there were a number of slogans scrawled in chalk on the ground. Here are a few of the more interesting ones.
Fun Fact #6: Shelby is a perfect leader for Occupy Denver. He’s sort of an odd dog and doesn’t pay that much attention to any of the humans around him unless they’re giving him free food.
After our little foray, we figured there was nothing really going on and headed back to Blog Con. However, late in the afternoon, we got word that the police had massed in numbers and were about to clear the park and dispose of the tents. Since that sounded like a newsworthy event, a bigger group of us beat feet back to the park.
This time, there were roughly 300 Occupiers in the park and about the same number of police across the street putting on riot gear. Still, it turned out we had more than an hour before things started breaking down.
Fun Fact #7: A lot of the protesters did in fact stink, either of marijuana or body odor.
So, we had a little fun first.
My friend April Gregory wanted to come, too. I tried to talk her out of it, not because she can’t handle herself, but because I thought it would be dangerous and I would have felt terrible if something had happened to her. In the end, I couldn’t talk April out of it, but she did promise to stick right with me so I could look out for her.
Of course, she might have been safer in the crowd because when the riot police started pouring towards the park, I moved right up front, hoping to get a fantastic up-close shot of them in an intimidating line.
Almost the second the cops lined up, they started charging ahead towards us yelling, “Get Back!” We were only about 10 ft ahead of them and they were coming fast; so we didn’t have much time. I grabbed April’s hand and we started moving rapidly away from them. We made it to the other side of the street, where all the hippies were.
We moved away from the main mass a bit and back from the riot line. That’s where we ran across this guy screaming at the police. In fairness to the Denver Occupy crowd, although he wasn’t the only one being abusive, he was by far the worst one we heard. Near the end, you’ll hear him say, “I got a gun, too!” and I say “Don’t yell that” because I was afraid the cops would hear “gun” and a dozen of them would fly in and dogpile everyone in the area on general principle. Right after that you hear a cop tell us to move — and we did — for a bit.
However, before that could happen, one of the Occupiers shouted something like, “Let’s go Occupy the mall!” and roughly three fourths of the crowd broke left past the cops, flew across the park, and headed into the street with the police trailing them.
We thought about following them, but I had no intention of chasing a bunch of hippies around all night on my last day in Denver. So, we ended up heading back to the hotel and a large group of us went out to a killer Vietnamese restaurant.
There were a lot of other fantastic people who were at the event that didn’t get mentioned in this post because I either didn’t happen to get a pic of them or we didn’t spend much time hanging out. Although I can’t name them all (Don’t get mad if I leave you off — it was unintentional), just a few that immediately come to mind are:
Ace, Lori Byrd, Melissa Clouthier, Elizabeth Crum, Meredith Dake, Datechguy , Jeff Dunetz, Steve Egg , Mr. Fastbucks, Jeff Goldstein, Labor Union Report, Thomas Laduke, Fingers Malloy, Amy Miller, John Nolte, Larry O’Connor, and Erik Telford.
Let me once again thank Freedomworks and in particular, Tabitha Hale for putting on such a phenomenal event. This would have been a great blogger conference under any circumstances, but combine the outstanding job Freedomworks did with the havoc caused by Occupy Denver and it will make this conference the standard that other blogger events will be judged by from this point forward.
Update #1: Chad Kent sent in this fantastic pic and video from karaoke Saturday night. The video featuring Fingers singing “Kiss” is a particular treat. Lol.