Less than 24 hours after members of Occupy Denver handed Gov. John Hickenlooper an open letter requesting to continue camping at the Lincoln Park site, the governor has announced that Occupy Denver will no longer be allowed to camp overnight due to state laws regarding camping on state property.
The deadline for the Occupy Denver protesters to vacate was left unclear at the press conference. The governor, mayor and attorney general did not say when the protesters would be facing enforcement action from the Colorado State Patrol, they said that authorities were “evaluating their options,” 9News reported.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, protestors at Occupy Denver were pensive about tonight's probable eviction. Perspectives on the potential for resistance varied. "You have unfortunate things happen with human beings all the time -- like theft, or fights, but [I don't see any] violence with the police," said a man who identified only as James. Either way, "I've seen some of the most gifted, intelligent, creative, educated human beings involved in this stuff ... and I'm blown away ... I don't think [this movement] is going away." In the background, however, anonymous others voiced their willingness to be arrested.
Although according to 7News, Hickenlooper said that the protesters can convene at the park between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.. so presumably beginning as soon as tonight at 11 p.m., occupiers that remain at the park may be forced to leave.
Hickenlooper made the announcement after he toured the Occupy Denver campsite for the first time this morning. The tent city erected by the protesters has grown to at least 70 tents, a kitchen for free meals, a nurses station, security force, free school and an area for religious worship, according to The Denver Post.
At the conference, Hickenlooper said that First Amendment rights do not allow for trespassing on state parks, Fox31 reports. The governor also noted:
No one appreciates the First Amendment as much as I do, but they can’t continue to stay there overnight.
Mayor Hancock echoed those sentiments in his statement:
This is about health, safety of the Occupy Denver protesters. I know there’s economic pain, but even though I empathize, my job is to uphold the law and keep Denver safe.
The announcement has provoked another strongly critical reaction against Hickenlooper from Occupy Denver supporters on Facebook and Twitter with statements claiming they will not vote for Hickenlooper again to pronouncements that they will stay at the park and fight regardless. Gov. Hickenlooper’s Facebook page is once again getting filled with angry and disappointed statements as it did when the governor first made suggestion that the occupiers would have to leave the park on Mike Rosen’s KOA radio show.
After the governor made his original statements on KOA, organizers from Occupy Denver hand delivered the open letter to the governor and his representatives on Wednesday to request a waiver that will permit the encampment to continue stating:
We respectfully request that your administration honor our constitutional right to peaceable assembly: we are formally requesting a variance or waiver pursuant to the municipal code of the City and County of Denver and Colorado state law that would allow us to continue occupying the park area surrounding Veteran’s Memorial.
In the letter the occupiers even ask that the Governor and members of his administration to visit the movement at the Capitol and attend one of the General Assembly meetings at the campsite.
Hickenlooper said in the KOA interview that he was concerned that if the Occupy Denver tent city was allowed to remain, then it could lead to multiple tent cities across Colorado.
In their letter, Occupy Denver responds directly to the governor’s concerns:
Governor Hickenlooper—there are already multiple tent cities across Colorado—the only difference is that ours isn’t hidden from the general public. If you are truly concerned about the precedent set by our occupation, we invite you to work with us to create a Colorado in which tent cities are no longer a necessity.
Thursday afternoon Occupy Denver released a press statement "strongly condemning" Hickenlooper's intent to evict campers, read the entire statement below from OccupyDenver.org:
OCCUPY DENVER STRONGLY CONDEMNS HICKENLOOPER FOR INTENTION TO PREMATURELY EVICT CAMPERS
Denver, Colorado, 13 October 2011 - This morning, Governor Hickenlooper announced at a press conference that Colorado State Patrol would force protestors from Lincoln Park over concerns “about health, [and the] safety of the Occupy Denver protestors, and the public.” Responding to an invitation from Occupy Denver to address the group’s General Assembly, the Governor’s Chief of Staff Roxane White first formally addressed these concerns to Occupy Denver at yesterday’s 7 PM meeting of the General Assembly. In the intervening hours, Occupy Denver has mobilized to bring in support from a broad spectrum of community outreach and safety groups to address health and safety matters in and around Liberty Park, including the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the Denver Guardian Angels, the Colorado Street Medics, and the Denver Street Outreach Collaboration.
Occupy Denver, which marks its 3rd week of 24-hour protest, began as roughly a dozen concerned citizens protesting corporate greed and a lack of a forum to express related grievances. It has grown in just weeks to over 100 citizens occupying the area in front of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver through the night, reaching up to 400 members during daylight hours, and over 1,000 at weekly rallies and marches. As the round-the-clock occupation swelled in size, members of Occupy Denver took to camping in Lincoln Park as an exercise of their First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceable assembly as protected by the US Constitution.
Before Occupy Denver’s response to the Governor’s concerns was noted, Governor John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and the Colorado Attorney General John Suthers held a joint news conference announcing that protestors will no longer be allowed to stay overnight. The Colorado State Patrol reinforced this stance by issuing an official notice stating, “Occupation of this park between 11PM and 5AM daily is illegal.”
Occupy Denver openly and strongly condemns the premature response of Governor Hickenlooper, Mayor Hancock, Attorney General Suthers, Chief of Staff Roxane White, and the Colorado State Patrol. The group makes it clear that, regardless of any action taken by the State or City, the daily protest and occupation will continue unimpeded. Occupy Denver looks forward to a Sunrise Rally with Peter Boyless and KHOW in front of the State Capitol beginning at 5 AM on Friday, October 14th, and to this week’s mass rally and protest Saturday, October 15th, expected to draw no less than 2,000 supporters.