Crowds began assembling on a field of ice at around eleven a.m. They arrived in carpools and busses and spilled out into the snow and cold. They started fires in trashcans but the police came around on horseback and ordered them put out. This angered the freezing crowd but they complied with the pointless orders. They had been issued quite a few pointless orders by people in uniforms as of late, and they learned that exhibiting even the slightest contempt for authority encouraged brutal retaliation. The crowd of protestors chilled in their huddled masses for hours.
By two o’clock, all of the factions were represented. The Marxists, wearing their Che Guevera shirts and waving their red and black flags, had come. Their faces were obscured by red bandanas. Then their counterparts, the libertarians, with their tricorn hats, barking through their megaphones. These were deemed to be causing a disturbance and were snatched up by the police as well. The two diametrically opposed ideologies merged together in opposition to their common enemy. They shared a fleeting, fragile brotherhood of resistance which was the only warmth they would experience on that tragic day.
Other factions appeared as well: the old and the young, the conservatives and the greens (but no neocons or progressives), the potheads, the veterans, and the unemployed dads with their unshaven faces and pot bellies. Many middle-aged white men filled the park but there were also many college kids and single mothers. Blacks and Latinos and Asians had had enough as well.
There were fundamentalist and not-so-fundamentalist Christians, Orthodox Jews, Buddhists and Muslims too. They had all amassed in Denver’s Civic Center Park in front of the State Capitol building with her gold leaf peeling and flaking and blowing away from her regal, romanesque dome like brittle autumn leaves in the wind. The government that had promised them so much had delivered them so little. They were tired of the empty promises. They were beginning to realize that dealing with the government had become like dealing with the devil. They were cold and exhausted, and were warmed only by their anger. They didn’t know what was going to happen, but it didn’t matter because their futures ceased to have relevance. They lived for the day, day by day. They had to do something. They had to take a stand. Enough was enough.
They weren’t going to accept any more of the ever-expanding list of ever-increasingly vague regulations and edicts. There were so many laws against selling this or buying that or going here or going there that one could be arrested for anything. They were done with the ration debit cards that bought nothing. They were tired of the obnoxious treatment by officials, the invasive, random searches, and the checkpoints—”freedom gates” as they were officially called. They would not accept any more neighborhood snitch programs designed to ferret out the “evil hoarders” who stockpiled canned food and the “energy wasters” who left their lights on too late at night. They would not tolerate waiting in thirty minute lines for toilet paper and egg noodles. They refused to accept any more disappearing of their neighbors.
No more were they going to tolerate beltway bureaucrats shutting off local electricity after towns exceeded their congressionally allotted energy ration because a cold front had moved in and everyone was forced to turn on their heat. No more! They were fed up with the scheduled brownouts and the gas prices doubling every four weeks and talk of reinstituting a draft and a Civilian Security Force and an Americorps built of kids soon to be kidnapped and conscripted by Homeland Security.
They were furious about how their pensions were confiscated under the Ghilarducci Act, which promised to save everyone’s future by creating so-called “guaranteed rates of return.” Their life savings—unless you worked for the government or the public employee unions—were confiscated, and the trillions of dollars were used to bail out D.C., propping up the establishment for a little while longer. Soon the guaranteed rate of return touted by the Ivy Leaguers was completely gone, wiped out in a poof of 200% annual inflation.
The smart ones who had bought hard assets didn’t escape either. Even though they had the prudence and foresight to stash their savings in something real, Congress pillaged them as well with the Currency Stabilization Act and a Windfall Profits Tax of 90% on the profits from the sale of selected commodities. “Everyone has to do their fair share,” the politicians announced. In other words, “There is no escape. Your foresight and prepping and resistance is futile.”
The protestors were protesting the lies more than anything. The unemployment rate officially peaked at 19%, but everyone knew that was a lie, too, and more like 30%. It was all propaganda, not any different from what the Soviets used to spout. Lies, lies, and more lies.
They saw the beltway cronies getting away with all the loot and that enraged them. “Kill the bankers!” some howled. “Hang the Wall Street thieves!”
The banksters had gamed the system by simply printing up a shitload of money and buying themselves a so-called democracy. Under the cover of “too big to fail” and “in the interest of financial stability” they enriched themselves by the calamity. They put a gun to their own heads and shouted, “Bail us out or we’ll shoot!” Big media, bankrolled by the banks, convinced everyone that Americans had to save the bankers in order to save America as the fortunes of Main Street were tied together. It was feudalism reinvented—neofeudalism. The more desperate the situation, the more ruthless the corporatocracy became at saving themselves.
It was the same old story told throughout antiquity. It was the twilight of Rome, the lingering death of Spanish colonialism. It was the Weimar Republic, the erosion of the British Empire, and the French Revolution. The Jacobins had been unleashed. Nothing ever changes.
The banks, of course, took the money and blew it on Ponzi schemes and real estate boondoggles, and bets—innocuously called swaps—and collateralized debt obligations, and a myriad of other rackets of hedge fund plays and a mountain of increasingly worthless government debt. And before the dollar dissolved into paper unworthy of wiping oneself with, the bankers cashed it all out for Saudi oil contracts and gold bars and Swiss francs. The rats jumped the sinking ship, leaving the Main Street chumps from steerage to rearrange the deck chairs. The populist anger was building into one ferocious gale. “Kill the politicians! Kill them all!”
The initial rage of the welfare proles had finally infected the working and middle classes. Once independent and self-sufficient, now their lives too were regimented, surveilled, and increasingly dependent upon Big Brother’s beneficence. They were being squeezed for protection money by local government Mafioso masquerading as police. They were terrorized by roaming thugs. And they were ignored by the police who spent their time trying to devise schemes to extract every last droplet of wealth from the dwindling earners in their jurisdictions. The latest racket was newly-devised: door-to-door tax collection they called “economic inspections.” They also ramped up efforts at taxation by citation, citing people enormous fines for the most inconsequential and victimless infractions.
The government at first tried to deflect the furor by pointing the finger at the evil price-gougers. But the government soon learned that whenever they instituted price controls, the store shelves would be instantaneously swept bare of the newly bargain-priced goods. Shuttered stores paid no taxes, so the government stopped demonizing the shopkeepers. Then they tried to blame the sneaky Asians, but after several months, the Great Asian Liquidation—as it came to be known—was a fading memory, long removed from the crisis that continued to deepen every day.
So the government redirected their efforts toward perception management. They took control of the television, arguing that the government owned the airwaves giving them the right to commandeer them. They put on their propaganda mouthpieces to tell the people that everything was going to be okay and was, in fact, getting better. Just one more round of ten-trillion-dollar stimulus and bailouts and everything would be fixed. They censored the internet in the interests of national security and fighting terror, and they implemented martial law to make the streets safe for freedom. Safety and security became magical words capable of silencing any public dissenter.
Perhaps a lower life form, lower than even the loathsome civil servant, was that servile, submissive citizen enabler that would always pontificate, “If you people would just cooperate with the government and give them a chance, they’ll fix everything.” None of those cattle-car-ready citizens were in attendance at the big nullification rally in Denver’s Civic Center Park that day. The crowd grew and aside from the angry venting of “kill the bastards,” it was a peaceful affair.
Some fifty thousand people had braved the snow and cold by four p.m. The media, however, did not come to cover it. Not even the local news crews showed up. It was joked that their conspicuous absence was a function of it being a busy news day. There must have been a great deal of “upswings in consumer confidence” and “rising manufacturing sentiments” stories to distract them from the protest rally. Such positive stories were apparently much more newsworthy than a spontaneous gathering of fifty thousand people.
The absent media’s place was taken up by the Domestic Security Force. They came in on Twentieth Street, exiting off Interstate 25. They paused briefly before the viaduct that spanned the steamy, sewage-warmed South Platte River. A gateway of two great, decorative bronze cauldrons marked the passageway into downtown. As the convoy awaited the final order to enter the city, Rollins lugged a gas can up onto the concrete base of one of the cauldrons. He poured diesel fuel into it and set it ablaze. Civilians stood and watched in silent amazement as a mechanized army crossed the shallow Rubicon and rolled into the heart of the Queen City of the Plains. The column turned south onto Broadway then east onto Colfax Avenue. They formed a line between the thoroughfares of Bannock and Lincoln Street, just behind the capitol building and her peeling gold dome.
Rollins and Marzan were in the same Humvee, again. Rollins drove this time and Marzan rode shotgun, looking green and trying not to vomit.
“What is wrong with you, dude?” Rollins asked as Jimmy opened the window and threw up down the side of the Humvee’s newly urbanized gray camouflage. “Why don’t you go see the doctor or something?”
“Just shut up and drive,” Marzan groaned, spitting out the last of it.
Denver’s mounted police took up a position south of the park along 14th Avenue. The Army-Police coalition’s plan was to drive a wedge through the crowd down Broadway and then converge like a vice on the two masses, arresting the rioters by the hundreds as they squeezed out the eastern and western ends. Once arrested, they would be handcuffed with plastic binders and driven like sheep over to the convention center for processing. From there, they would be packed into 53-foot semi-trailers where they would be hauled off for indefinite detention under authority of the latest round of anti-terror legislation.
“They’ve gotta know what’s about to go down,” Rollins remarked.
The crowd watched as the forces fell into formation around them. But they weren’t going anywhere. By six p.m., the roads into downtown were blocked off by barricades and reserve tanks. Big media may not have been there to capture the events, but videos were flying out to the world via cell phones. The world was tuning in and things were getting out of hand for the state’s top bureaucrats who yearned for DC validation and didn’t want Washington to see their incompetance.
The wind died and the skies clouded over as night fell. The air warmed a little. At ten p.m., the Humvee loudspeakers began barking orders at the crowd. Some in the throng mocked them with one-finger salutes, but other than that, the crowd was non-combative. Rollins watched as they passed candles around. Women stood on the ice holding their feeble flames. Men with grim faces locked their arms together. The black horses huffed and snorted and shuffled around on their icy hooves. The soldiers, many still dressed in their tawny desert camouflage, clashing with the gray hues of their freshly painted war machines, awaited their orders.
At 11:59 p.m., the interim governor—a party apparatchik and D.C. wannabe who was watching the entire event on closed-circuit surveillance—called the president and asked what should be done. Thirty seconds later he hung up and issued the order. Thirty seconds after that, the coalition launched the tear gas canisters.
The crowd did not budge.
The sound-blasters fired their ear-piercing wails
But the crowd just locked their arms tighter and covered their ears.
The Governor called his DC master again. He hung up. He issued the next command. “Disperse them!”
The Humvees roared to life. The gunners aimed their .50 calibers. The horsemen began their advance. The unarmed crowd bowed and bent, and the chains of locked arms started to break apart in places, but very few fled.
Rollins drove his Humvee up onto the grass. Just ahead of him, in the beams of his headlamps, stood a solitary figure, an unarmed man, a man who was probably someone’s father and brother and son. He hurled no insults at Rollins; he simply stood there, facing the rumbling, armored war machine with the .50 caliber machine gun on its turret. Michael Rollins had seen him many times before back in Shariastan. He sensed his fear. Rollins-the-Brave took his hands off the steering wheel. He screwed his Osiris eye ring down onto his middle finger and glared at the unarmed man from behind his bullet proof windshield. Rollins switched on the interior light so that the resister could see him. The two men locked eyes.
Rollins did not see a human being. He only saw a savage disrespecting him, an animal refusing to obey commands, a thing secretly plotting against him. Deep down, deep within his id, beyond language, beyond consciousness, Rollins perceived a man who was several orders of magnitude more courageous than he could ever possibly be.
Anger boiled up inside of Michael Rollins. He hated that thing now, and he was going to teach that thing some respect. He grabbed the steering wheel with both hands and revved the engine. The resister didn’t move. Rollins blared the air horn. The man stood fast.
Rollins had seen enough. He jammed on the gas and ran the man down with such acceleration that the Humvee bounced into the air as its wheels skidded over his body. He let out an orgasmic scream as the Humvee slid to a stop in the grass. “I am Michael Rollins, god of thunder and rock and roll!”
Jimmy Marzan heaved violently but nothing but air came out.
“Did you see that?!” Rollins shouted.
“Let me out of here,” Marzan shouted back.
“Did you see that, Jimmy? Holy shit. Did you see that?”
“Let me out of here!”
“Dude, c’mon man…”
In a one crisp movement, Marzan took out his pistol and stuck the barrel into Rollin’s temple.
“Okay. Okay. Chill out, dude,” Rollins begged. “Go check him out. Maybe he’ll be okay.”
Marzan leaned in real close to Rollins so that the end of the barrel of his pistol touched them both. He pressed his mouth into Rollin’s ear and whispered. “If I ever see you again, Rollins, I will kill you. Do you understand?”
“What the hell is wrong with you, man?”
“You listen very closely,” Marzan continued, pressing the barrel deeper into Rollins’ temple. “You and I—we are going to hell when we die. But if I ever see you alive again on this earth, I will send you there myself.”
Jimmy Marzan leaped out of the Humvee and disappeared into the screaming darkness.