Steamboat Springs Ron Creel took long, contemplative drags from his cigarette as he leaned on a metal barrier outside the Denver Coliseum, waving an American flag at passing motorists.
Creel, in overalls, a Woodstock T-shirt and a dog tail - the rest of the costume was stolen at a music concert - is the first to admit he's a little biased when it comes to the war in Iraq.
"I want the war to end," said Creel. He said his daughter, a military officer, is being held in a secret prison in Iraq. "I have a self interest."
Creel was one of about 10,000 people who turned out at the Denver Coliseum on Wednesday for an anti-war concert sponsored by Tent State University and Iraq Veterans Against the War. The concert, headlined by Rage Against The Machine, was followed by a march to the Pepsi Center, where the veterans group hoped to deliver Democratic Party officials a letter calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, full and adequate healthcare for all returning servicemen and veterans, and reparations made to the Iraqi people.
At a 2008 Democratic National Convention that has seen lower than expected turnout at most protest activities, the readymade supply of concert-goers made for an enormous march spanning several blocks. March organizers made it as easy as possible for people to participate, piling protest signs outside the Denver Coliseum for anyone to pick up.
On a concrete floor backstage, members of the veterans group huddled in full uniform between disheveled activists planning the march on white posterboards. Fliers handed out at the door warned that the march was "not permitted" and that there was "a risk of arrest," but by about noon, march organizer Leflora Cunningham-Walsh said the protestors had negotiated the assistance of police, who escorted the march.
Cunningham-Walsh said the protestors are not satisfied with the party line being uttered in nearly every speech delivered at the Pepsi Center this week, extolling Barack Obama's commitment to a "responsible," rather than immediate, withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
"That is not something that can be compromised on," she said.
The music event started slowly, with the Denver Coliseum largely empty when State Radio took that stage at 11 a.m. Energy steadily built, though, as bands The Coup and Denver's own Flobots followed. Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys kept the crowd roaring with his emotional and humorous political commentary between acts. And when Rage Against The Machine took the stage, standing in salute to members of the veterans group as their trademark red star rose on a curtain behind the stage, the Denver Coliseum exploded.
Cunningham-Walsh was pleased with the turnout and the event.
"It's really amazing to be here, especially to see all the young people who are out," she said.
Having attended the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Creel's standards for protest were pretty high, but he was pleased, as well.
"There's no comparison," Creel said. "But it's good to see the young people come out, though, because for a decade, they haven't made their voices heard."