August 25, 2008

CIVIC CENTER PARK -- A crispy dressed 50-piece marching band playing "America the Beautiful" led the way this morning as about 100 Falun Gong practitioners stepped down Denver's protest route to draw attention to the meditation philosophy and the persecution followers face in China.

Several other protest groups were scheduled to march this morning while the Democratic National Convention got underway but either failed to show up or decided not to demonstrate, said Kevin Scott, who is coordinating the permitted protests and marches for the city.

"Everybody puts in varying amounts of people they expect to march, and you know, some come, some don't," he said, noting that one group that didn't show this morning estimated they would have 5,000 people for a pro-Hillary Clinton march.

The Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, parade drew about 100 people, including the band, which was smartly dressed in matching royal blue shirts and baseball caps, khaki slacks and white gloves. Other marchers wore matching yellow shirts.

"We want to bring peace and beauty to the world," Young Yang, 42, a Chinese native who now lives in Denver. "We want to introduce Falun Dafa to the people of America and draw attention to the persecution by the communist government in China.

Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that makes use of meditation exercises to achieve the principles of truth, benevolence and forbearance.

The practice is banned as too mystical in China, where up to 100 million people may have practiced it before a 1999 crackdown began.

"My mind is more peaceful. My body is more healthy" because of the exercises, Yang said.