Denver drafts plan for at-risk young protesters, kids of detainees at DNC

Some protesters plan on bringing children to the upcoming Democratic National Convention, but what will happen to those minors in the case of a clash with police is unclear.

Denver’s Department of Human Services is in the process of drafting a proposal to provide care for abandoned or endangered kids during the DNC, including but not limited to the children of arrested protesters. But with a week and a half left until the convention, DHS has yet to lock down many details and won’t release any part of the plan to the media until it is completed.

(Photo/Sam Felder, Flickr)
(Photo/Sam Felder, Flickr)

“A plan does exist,” says Denver DHS spokeswoman Benilda Samuels. “I am not sure if they are ready to share at this point. I don’t think that all the pieces are there.”

Samuels says that the scope of the DNC, as well as the fact that other convention cities had plans for children, prompted Denver to do the same. She says that there may be a need for foster homes for children whose parents are unavailable to them. Colorado’s foster care system is already strapped for cash and foster parents.

“If we needed to keep the child for more than 24 hours, we would need to find a foster home,” she says. “But if the situation of their parents gets resolved within hours, we would have a different arrangement for that. It depends on the parents’ situation.”

Protesters, meanwhile, have their own plans for children. At the Festival of Democracy, a Recreate ’68 event to be held in Civic Center and Skyline parks during the DNC, there will be a “Kids Tent.” Protest organizers described the tent on the DNC Disruption ’08 Web site, a hub for counter-convention organizing. “The Kids Tent will be a space for parents to leave their children with experienced volunteers as they participate in events, a place for families to engage in programming related to protests, and generall [sic] come together to participate in activities with a youthful nature,” one entry reads.

Kids Tent organizers declined to comment for this story, saying that they, too, had not solidified their plans.

Brian Vicente, executive director of the People’s Law Project, a group that will connect activists with legal services during the DNC, says that it is up to parents to create a plan for their children if they bring them to the protests:

“I think generally the onus is upon the parent to make sure there is a contingency plan in place. If arrests do occur it is going to be chaotic, and I don’t believe the police have any procedure in place to take the kid into custody. I think they would be left out there.”

However, he adds, most protesters would not think of putting their children in danger. “If they are engaging in a more risky form of protest, they would probably have a plan for their kid.”

But some activists are preparing to bring their children front-and-center during DNC protests. Troy Newman, executive director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, says that teen-agers will figure prominently during the group’s counter-convention events.

“The children that we are bringing, mostly young teens and midteens, represent the [post-Roe v. Wade] generation, and that is why we think it is important to bring them,” he says. “One-third of their generation, or one-third of their peers, have been executed through abortion. Many young people feel it is very important that their generation is represented. It is one that they would say is most often neglected.”

Samuels says she doesn’t know how many children will be coming to the DNC. But at least one group won’t bring a single kid.

Deidra Lynch, the DNC and RNC coordinator with CODEPINK, a national woman’s anti-war group, says that none of the group’s 274 people coming to Denver plans on bringing children along. And though she believes in showing her own daughter democracy in action, she says she’ll be leaving her at home this year, too.

“I’m used to traveling with a 10-year-old,” she says. “There are plenty of appropriate things a child can be doing for peace, but not marching in the streets with anarchists and people with different agendas than I have for my child.”