Protests and assassination threat fail to dampen spirits at Democratic Convention
By Andre Coleman 08/28/2008
Despite the presence of heavily armed security guards outside, Pasadena city leaders attending the Democratic National Convention inside Denver's Pepsi Center were moved to tears by the speech made Monday night by Michelle Obama in support of her husband.
Pasadena City Council members Jacque Robinson and Chris Holden, both delegates for Sen. Barack Obama, arrived in the Mile High City last weekend, while fellow Pasadena Councilman Steve Madison, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton, was expected to get into town Wednesday night - a day before Obama was set to accept his party's nomination.
Holden said security at the four-day event was extremely tight and a little unsettling, with Associated Press reporting police using pepper spray at one point Monday to disperse a crowd of about 300 protesters.
Authorities said three men and a woman - one of them allegedly found in possession of rifles, ammunitions and drugs - supposedly plotted to assassinate Obama at the convention, according to AP. The four were arrested Sunday on weapons possession charges, but are not expected to be charged with making threatening statements, conspiracy or any other national security-related crimes.
"You see police everywhere hanging out of cars with machine guns," Holden observed. "On the one hand, it is dramatic, and on the other hand, you feel unnerved."
Although Madison campaigned for Clinton, he has not yet decided whether to accept an invitation to sit on Obama's campaign finance committee. "To be honest, I haven't decided whether I'll be able to do it - it's pretty ambitious," Madison said.
Obama is due to accept his party's nomination tonight before 70,000 people at Mile High Stadium. Coincidentally, Thursday marks the 45th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech that Martin Luther King Jr. made on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. According to several polls, Obama and presumptive GOP contender Sen. John McCain of Arizona are in a virtual dead heat. The Republican National Convention begins Monday in St. Paul, Minn.
The United Democratic Headquarters is hosting a viewing of Obama's acceptance speech at 6 p.m. tonight at the Blair International Baccalaureate Magnet School Amphitheater in Pasadena. The event will be hosted by "Days of Our Lives" star James Reynolds and includes guest speakers, music and a recitation of King's speech. There will also be on-site voter registration and refreshments. The amphitheater is located on the school campus at 1201 S. Marengo Ave., in Pasadena.
Also Monday night, Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has served for nearly five decades in the US Senate and is now suffering from brain cancer, threw his still considerable support behind Obama.
Kennedy, according to AP, said "nothing, nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight." He then spoke for seven minutes and promised to be in the Senate in January to help start Obama's administration.
While Kennedy's appearance was a sad occasion for most, both Holden and Robinson said they were uplifted by Michelle Obama's speech.
"People were either full-on crying or the tears were welling up in their eyes," Robinson said of the presentation, in which the prospective first lady described the struggles of her father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis from the time he was 30 but never complained and still worked every day at a city of Chicago water treatment plant.
"By the end ... I was crying. I was trying to be hard. I thought it was very moving," Robinson said. Michelle Obama showered praise on her husband, saying 19 months of intense campaigning has not changed the man's overall character. "He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago," Michelle Obama said, referring to Malia Anne, the older of the Obama's two girls. Their other daughter, Natasha, or "Sasha," is 7. "Inching along at a snail's pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands ... determined to give her what he never had, the affirming embrace of a father's love."
That speech, Robinson said, "showed the human side of their family. It left me feeling like you can do it all. You can have a family and be a professional. Even though it may be hard, you can do it all. That was history."
After the speech, the Obama girls joined their mom onstage as an image of their father, who was still campaigning in Kansas City, was broadcast from a giant TV screen at the Pepsi Center.
"I was fighting the tears. It was pretty tough," Holden said. "I think she did an outstanding job. I don't think there is anything else she could have said. She was measured, heartfelt and right on point.
"For her to stand there in that position was historic. For African Americans, it was a first, but she represented more than just African Americans. She represented women everywhere," Holden added.
Although some polls show up to 20 percent of Clinton supporters switching sides to McCain, "I have not felt or seen hostility from Hillary supporters," said Robinson. "There is a unified atmosphere, and that is our mission coming out of this convention."