DENVER (CN) - Colorado University at Boulder students were relegated to a "Freedom of Speech Zone" during the Republican presidential candidates event Wednesday, after failing to secure more than the 100 tickets the college's students were allotted.
Students petitioned for 1,000 tickets, unsuccessfully, and were sent to the free-speech zone on CU Boulder's Business Field, across the road from the fenced-off Coors Event Center, which was surrounded by security personnel and police cruisers.
Julia Daniel, with Boulder Showing Up For Racial Justice, helped set up a large white blow-up elephant with "Racism," written on it, in the middle of the Freedom of Speech Zone.
"The idea behind that is that there's this elephant in the room; it's like a lot of folks are nervous to talk about racism," Daniel told Courthouse News. "White people, we feel like it's this thing that we want to pretend doesn't exist anymore. As white people, it's our responsibility to say we're not cool with these racist policies. It's costing all of us, especially black people. Everyone suffers as a result of white supremacy."
Daniel accused both major parties of promoting a "racist ideology, whether it's anti-black or anti-Muslim. There's a lot of racial implications to the rhetoric they're using, but also the policies that they push as well as the things the Democrats push: the prison-industrial complex, the ways that racial disparities affect environmental issues, folks who get harmed by things like Katrina. The rising sea levels worldwide are generally affecting people of color, even though the folks who are causing that are generally corporations that are owned by wealthy white people."
P.D. Gantert, an organizer with Fossil Free CU, said his group wants Colorado University and other institutional investors to divest in companies that exploit fossil fuels. Fossil Free CU wants to see more young people involved in politics.
"We did a lot of the youth turnout for this event," Gantert said. "We think it's really important to use this as a platform to share our values, which are not just climate justice." Fossil Free CU banners in the free-speech zone included, "Youth Choose Migrant Justice," and "Youth Choose Trans Rights."
"We can't be like, a single issue organization," Gantert says.
Gary Roland helped organize a march that of students and community members through the streets of Boulder on Wednesday, finishing in front of the Coors Event Center.
"There were about 350 to 400 people," Roland said. " It was about half students, half community members."
Like Fossil Free CU, Roland's march cited an amalgamation of social and economic issues, many of them climate-oriented.
"We had people from Move to Amend, we had Veterans for Peace, we had climate justice activists from Rising Tide, we had a broad range of people," Roland said.
Roland said that CNBC's decision to close the event to most CU Boulder students is emblematic of students' feeling of exclusion from U.S. politics.
"People are feeling shut out of the political system, which is controlled by two corporate capitalist parties," Roland said. "They don't actually address the issues that are creating this catastrophic ecological collapse. The more people that assert their voice, the stronger our communities are.
"You have to kind of drag the politicians behind us. They may get into it with the right intentions, but after they go through a couple of election cycles, you know, raise all that money, they are no longer in it for the good reasons."
Daniel called Boulder a historically liberal city that has not lived up to its diverse population, including more than 40,000 Latinos.
"I think we really need to step up also in thinking of, what services are we provided bilingual students? How are we addressing housing needs? How are we making this a welcoming place for immigrants?" Daniel said. "Because it's a really white, pretty wealthy county. So in a lot of ways, that's not welcoming for Latino people."
Roland said he was pleased by the turnout-and even had some kind words for President Nixon.
"Richard Nixon one of the most conservative people who've ever been president of this country - and he also established the Environmental Protection Agency," Roland said. "The reason he did so was because there were millions of people demanding environmental protections in the streets. When you're in the streets, politicians can't help but listen."