By Renee Lewis / Al Jazeera America / Oct. 28, 2015
The liberal stronghold of Boulder, Colorado, will host Wednesday night’s Republican primary debate as well as, organizers hope, thousands of activists arrayed against the GOP’s positions on climate change, health care, immigration, gender equality and education.
“I’m not sure necessarily why anyone chose to have a Republican debate in what is obviously an extremely Democratic community,” said Bob Greenlee, a Republican former mayor of Boulder. “I think the response is somewhat predictable, in terms of students and others who are organizing various protests.”
Many of the protests fall under the umbrella of progressive student groups at the University of Colorado at Boulder, including a March for Civic Engagement and rally that organizers hope will draw 10,000 people. Gary Roland, a student organizer, said participating groups were asked to bring art that demonstrates their vision for the future, The Daily Camera, a campus newspaper, reported.
“The march is a demonstration of the future we’re building, and so rather than actually calling out the parties, we’ll tell them, ‘The future we envision is this,’” he said.
Latino groups and immigration reform supporters are also expected to respond to what they called anti-immigrant attacks from Republican presidential candidates.
Boulder, with its reputation for dyed-in-the-wool liberalism, will host forum for remaining GOP candidates
Candidate Jeb Bush has been criticized for using the phrase “anchor babies” to describe U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, a term that many pro-immigration groups find offensive. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has also come out against across-the-board birthright citizenship.
The pro-immigrant demonstration, organized by groups such as Servicios de la Raza and the CIRC Action Fund, will mark the launch of My Country, My Vote, a 12-month voter registration campaign aimed at mobilizing Colorado’s Latino and immigrant voters and their allies.
“We’re not just demonstrating the political power of one of the nation’s fastest-growing demographics. We’re also calling on the next president and Congress to make passage of fair and comprehensive immigration reform a priority during the first 100 days of the next presidential term,” the campaign’s organizers said on its website.
A fossil fuel divestment initiative active on all University of Colorado campuses is organizing a climate change action during tonight’s debate. Students have been lobbying the state’s universities to divest from coal, oil and gas in an effort to counter global warming.
Before the debate, gun violence survivors gathered at a rally on Tuesday at the Boulder campus to criticize the GOP for its failure to act on gun control. The parents of one of the victims of a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, attended the rally, The Colorado Statesman reported. Organizers told the paper that the event was meant to hold Republicans accountable for “being in the pocket of the NRA.”
Bush has come under particular scrutiny for his comments after a shooting on Oct. 1 at a community college in Oregon. In response to calls for more regulation of guns after that incident, he said, “It’s just very sad to see … Look, stuff happens. There’s always a crisis, and the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not always the right thing to do.”
He and other GOP candidates with years of experience in politics are trying to gain ground in a campaign so far dominated by bombastic reality television star and developer Trump and by Carson.
The debate, which is closed to the public, will be moderated by the business news cable network CNBC and will focus on economic issues.
Students at the university have also been protesting that only 100 tickets to the event were originally made available to campus staffers and students.
ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, delivered a petition on Tuesday to the university president calling for 50 percent of the tickets to the debate to go to students, the group said in a news release.
“To promote this debate on the University of Colorado campus while locking students out who only want to fill the arena’s thousands of empty seats is an insult to those students and our whole community,” said Army Runyon-Harms, the group’s executive director.
Though the arena is capable of holding over 10,000 people, only 1,000 seats will be offered for the debate. A day after the petition was delivered, the Republican National Committee said it would provide an additional 50 tickets to students and faculty.
With wire services