BOSTON — Only attendees with proper credentials entered
the Fleet Center last Monday through Thursday nights, but the
convention never stopped outside the center’s doors. Each day
before delegates, guests and press packed the security checkpoints
on Causeway Street, the convention rushed at a frantic pace from
hotel, to library, to city parks from Boston to Cambridge.

Hana Bae
Protesters crowd underneath closed train tracks in front of the Fleet Center in Boston, Mass. last Monday. Many of the complaints voiced involved not being allowed access into the convention. (FOREST CASEY/Daily)

At the Sheraton Hotel in the Prudential Center, nearly every
state held Democratic Party meals for residents, delegates and
politicians of their respective states. In Cambridge, home of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University,
authors and politicians spoke to eager crowds.

But the bulk of protestors assembled in the Boston Common
— outside the Fleet Center itself and far from most media
sources.

The National Education Association, together with the
Congressional Tri-Caucus, held an afternoon rally Wednesday at the
Sheraton, which — to the surprise of many attendants —
was graced by now media-darling and Senate hopeful Barack Obama of
Illinois. Obama arrived in spite of campaigning all day and leaving
for a two-month political tour later that night.

“I’m tired, I’m very tired but here I’m
with my friends. And you, my friends, thank you for the service you
provide each and every day to our children, you can’t afford
to be tired,” Obama said. “Speaking last night [at the
Convention Center] wasn’t pressure, pressure is being in a
room of 30 kids and wondering how I’m going to reach all of
them, how I’m going to inspire them. You teachers are a
standard by which we measure whether we are being true to this
country.”

Following Tuesday night’s keynote address to the
convention, which has vaulted Obama into the national spotlight,
the Senate hopeful answered a question on many minds. “I will
help Kerry however I can, but my concentration has to be on my home
state. Each state has its own needs, and I haven’t even won
yet,” Obama said.

Obama is running for the vacant Illinois Senate seat and is
currently unopposed.

While Obama has said he will not join the Kerry campaign, the
former Democratic presidential candidates have thrown their support
behind the nominee. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean spent the week
traveling the city while Kerry toured the East Coast. At the Royal
Sonesta Hotel on Tuesday afternoon, Dean teamed with filmmaker
Michael Moore and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich to speak
about America’s future and the necessity of a strong and
unified Democratic party. Supporters arrived at the Sonesta and
other venues hours before the events began, where lines up to a
mile long formed winding down stairs, out doors and around
blocks.

“John Kerry has cohesive plans for our country, but
that’s all policy. For right now we need to talk about
politics,” Dean said. “Politics is too important to be
left to politicians.”

Dean also emphasized the importance of campaigning and pointed
to his success on the grassroots level. While Dean dropped out of
the nomination race early in the primary season, he now leads
Democracy For America, an organization based on exhaustive travel
across the United States and collecting small donations from
millions of donors.

“The way you win presidential elections is to take score
on the local elections. We need to have people running for every
level of political office from library trustee and school board on
up,” Dean said. “Those people who run in local
elections not only vote in national elections, but they draw their
families and other families into the party and we’re not
going to win this election without going to Mississippi and Utah
and campaigning with the same enthusiasm.”

The Sonesta held only 800 people inside, but Dean and the entire
speaker’s podium moved outside after they finished to mirror
the speeches for the 1400 that had gathered outside the terrace. In
both cases, Dean was received by thunderous applause and concluded
with a winded rant ending in, “We need to stop being afraid
of being Democrats in this country!”

Speakers across the convention had been encouraged by the Kerry
campaign to convey a positive front against the Bush
administration, a notion that frustrated Dean as well as Reich.
Reich wasted no time in critiquing the President’s economic
plans.

“We need to understand a reality about the current
economic recovery, the reality is there is not an economic
recovery,” Reich said. “We need an investment in
Americans which doesn’t exist, and what Bush doesn’t
understand is people are the most important investment in an
economy.”

When Moore arrived, he placed a similar emphasis on people, not
policy, while lambasting the Bush administration and the media for
its failings.

“You can’t compare this election to any election
before Sept. 11 because it’s cool now to talk about politics
and it’s suddenly uncool to be apathetic,” Moore said.
“I, we, the people, we need [the media] to ask the questions,
demand the evidence. Don’t ever send us to war without
sending us evidence. You do us no service by hopping on the
bandwagon.”

But Moore’s sharp-tongued criticisms of Bush do not often
ring through the entire Democratic Party. Michigan Gov. Jennifer
Granholm spoke Tuesday morning along with Lt. Gov. John Cherry
about the usual lack of shots at the Republican Party at the
convention.

“I think it’s a great strategy because I don’t
think the people who can be persuaded really want to hear all those
comments,” Granholm said. “In my speech, I had a couple
lines that were really red meat, but [Kerry’s officials]
asked me to take them out. They want us to make sure we are not
bashing the administration and I think that speaks to the fact that
Kerry is on control.”

Michigan has been hit as hard as any state with job losses,
education under-funding and low voter turnout in elections, all
factors which cement Michigan’s importance in November as a
critical swing state.

As the political issues of health care, the economy, the Iraq
War and others are well known, protestors throughout Boston made
sure these messages were not lost. Many gathered in the Boston
Common, a large city park, to profess their grievances, while
others chose to set up as close to the Fleet Center’s
security entrance as possible. A short scuffle on Thursday
afternoon closed even more of the downtown as hundreds of police
and military were called in to place themselves as barricades
through the streets.

Finally, a satirical political theatre group called
“Billionaires for Bush” staged a march across Boston on
Wednesday evening. The group mocks the wealthy Bush constituency by
dressing in formal attire and adopting humorous pseudonyms and they
marched with signs chanting satirical phrases. Members of
Billionaires for Bush also performed mock interviews depicting
American wealth and the Bush administration.

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