OCCUPY ACROSS THE U.S.: Protesters forced to adapt to police tactics in Denver

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 | 3:00 p.m. CST; updated 5:25 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Desiree Trujillo, 17, of Aurora, Colo., chants between to a pair State Troopers outside the State Capitol following the Occupy Denver march in Denver on Nov. 19. Several hundred people marched for the eighth straight Saturday in Denver.

Editor's note: Missourian reporters visiting their homes during the week of Thanksgiving caught up with Occupy movements in those cities. This is one of six dispatches from the Occupy movement across the country.

DENVER — For about two months, a community of protesters has been gathering in a park nestled between the state Capitol and the Denver City and County Building.

The group is varied. Professionals, students, homeless people and retirees hold signs that echo sentiments expressed by Occupy protesters around the country, decrying corporate greed and economic disparity.

"Denver is an open-minded community," demonstrator Tim Calahan said. "We tend to get involved in issues that affect all of us."

Beyond the day-to-day "occupying," the group’s Saturday rallies draw hundreds of people who march through downtown Denver and come to hear discussions on topics such as why they oppose giving corporations the same constitutional rights as people, including the right to fund political campaigns.

Despite good attendance at these events, Colorado’s winter weather presents an unavoidable obstacle for Occupy Denver. Having been through several snowstorms, the number of people on the “24/7 crew” — protesters who spend the night in the park — has dropped to somewhere between 50 and 70 mostly homeless protesters on any given night.

"Does it mean going into hibernation, doing more direct actions and coming back in the spring?" asked longtime demonstrator Tanner Spendley. "We’re doing whatever we can."

Spendley, a photographer, has been documenting Occupy Denver since its beginning. 

Occupy Denver is underscored by local issues such as a growing homeless population — a group that Spendley said local politicians ignore. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock recently said he would support a law reducing the number of public places people can sleep at night.

"If anyone is the 99 percent, it’s the homeless," Spendley said.

Local police tactics have forced protesters to adapt. First, they were evicted from a park adjacent to the Capitol building in mid-October and forced to move across the street to Civic Center Park. More than 20 people were arrested.

About two weeks later, officers removed tents from the park and used pepper spray and weapons similar to paintball guns to fire plastic balls filled with pepper spray at protesters. Twenty more people were arrested then.

Police officers have also ticketed people driving cars who stop on Broadway to drop things off at Occupy Denver and cars that honk when driving by the protest. Spendley said police officers took food out of the park at 1 a.m. on Nov. 21.  On most days, there are about seven police vehicles parked around the Occupy site.

Denver police Lt. Matthew Murray said the department supports the right to peacefully protest, but must enforce local laws, even if they are unpopular with demonstrators.


"We're in a really difficult spot," Murray said. "We want to be reasonable. We haven't always been reasonable, and we're working on that."

Next: Occupy Lincoln

Previous: Occupy Cincinnati

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