#Occupy Denver: Denver Police Move Into Tent City And Evict Campers, Arrests Made, Park Closed Indefinitely (UPDATES, VIDEO)
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By P. SOLOMON BANDA and THOMAS PEIPERT, Associated Press
DENVER (AP) -- Police in riot gear had just cleared Wall Street protesters out of their camp near the Colorado state Capitol Friday when one of the demonstrators grabbed a bullhorn and exhorted the crowd to come back Saturday.
In Denver and other Colorado cities, protesters said they plan to keep up their show of support of the Occupy Wall Street movement, even if some were in disarray after the early morning raid outside the Capitol.
"We don't plan on going anywhere" said Michelle Lessans, one of the organizers for Occupy Denver. "We have a march and rally every Saturday. We're going to have a general assembly to decide what to do next."
Marches or meetings are planned over the next few days in Boulder and Pueblo, organizers said.
The Denver protesters had been camped for as long as three weeks in Lincoln Park, a grassy, state-owned city block just west of the Capitol.
Authorities took no significant action until Thursday afternoon, when Gov. John Hickenlooper toured their camp and then ordered the protesters to leave by 11 p.m. He and other officials noted it was illegal to camp at the site. They also cited concerns about public safety and health.
Many of the protesters defied the orders and stayed. At 3:30 a.m. Friday, an hour after Colorado State Patrol troopers ordered them to leave, troopers and Denver police officers began taking down dozens of tents.
At about 6:30 a.m., officers advanced on some of the remaining protesters who had locked arms around a few tents still standing. Officers held their batons horizontally and nudged or pushed the protesters to break up the human chain.
Most of the demonstrators retreated without resisting, chanting "Peaceful!" or "Shameful!"
One person was arrested on a charge of simple assault, Colorado State Patrol Capt. Jeff Goodwin said. He did not elaborate, and no other violence was reported.
Goodwin said 21 people were arrested on charges of unlawful conduct on public land, and one on a charge of impeding traffic for jaywalking.
The Denver demonstrators said they were protesting Wall Street excesses and the economic clout of the wealthy.
"My main complaint is there is no more middle class in America. The rich control most of the money," said David Humphrey, 24, of Pine, who carried a sign with a picture of President Barack Obama and the words "Change God bless."
Dave Kelley of Arvada held up a sign supporting John Hickenlooper's order for the protesters to vacate the park. "Right choice Gov. No one is above the law," it read.
Kelley, a flooring contractor, said he isn't angry at Wall Street and thinks most of the protesters don't understand capitalism.
"If it wasn't for Wall Street, where would we be? They will pull this around, even though it has had its troubles," he said.
After police cleared the protesters out of the camp, the tents, signs and debris from the camp were loaded into dump trucks and hauled it away. Authorities posted a sign, warning that the park has been closed until further notice and access would be allowed by permit only.
The Huffington Post was live at the Occupy Denver eviction relaying all the events to HuffPost's national Occupy Wall Street liveblog. Below are the blog updates from approximately 10:30 p.m. Thursday to 3:30 a.m. Friday as the drama unfolded at the park:
Thu, Oct. 13, 2011 - 10:28 PM: Group meeting concludes, "now is the time to leave if you are not prepared to be arrested. Get your cameras ready, it's starting."
Thu, Oct. 13, 2011 - 10:35 PM: Protesters enticing media/onlookers to join them: "when your children ask you where you were, what will you tell them?" Onlooker: "ill tell them about variations of peaceful protest tactics." Lots of cars honking in solidarity as they drive past the park.
Thu, Oct. 13, 2011 - 10:57 PM: One protester: "you guys down here for the free tear gas? I haven't had any since the avalanche won the stanley cup."
Thu, Oct. 13, 2011 - 11:06 PM: First unmarked cruiser just pulled up. Hidden behind media vans. Helicopter overhead circling.
Thu, Oct. 13, 2011 - 11:35 PM: Cops have yet to take any action. One or two denver police cars on the periphery but my understanding is colorado state troopers will be making arrests as it's state property -- not city.
Thu, Oct. 13, 2011 - 11:37 PM: Protesters launching fireworks, playing "red rover" with bystanders to lure them into the park.
Thu, Oct. 13, 2011 - 11:43 PM: Still plenty of energy left in the crowd, but rebellious anticipation seems to be waning.
Thu, Oct. 13, 2011 - 11:47 PM: Crowd chanting "we are the 99 percent". This may be a game of cat and mouse meets chicken. Riot police rumored to be nearby.
Thu, Oct. 13, 2011 - 11:54 PM: 8 to 10 riot police are holed up inside state capitol building, have been there for last hour or so. Witnesses say the police didn't seem anxious to do much, were "sauntering around."
Fri, Oct. 14, 2011 - 12:24 AM: Update: rumors circulating the Occupy Denver camp will be cleared at 2 a.m. after things calm down. Nurses at nearby hospital rumored to have been put on emergency standby for a potential influx at that time.
Fri, Oct. 14, 2011 - 1:51 AM: Protesters are still here.
Fri, Oct. 14, 2011 - 2:27 AM: Police appear to have set up a makeshift processing center between the Denver Public Library and the Denver Art Museum. Also includes a perimeter of riot police. Squads of police were seen in the area but have since disappeared.
Fri, Oct. 14, 2011 - 2:36 AM: Police are moving in, blocking off street. Protesters yelling "peaceful, peaceful, peaceful."
Fri, Oct. 14, 2011 - 2:42 AM: Flashing lights have subsided. Police now rumored to enter camp and seize all belongings at 3:15 a.m.
Fri, Oct. 14, 2011 - 3:02 AM: State police have now officially warned protesters they will be removed from the park at 3:15 a.m. Riot police circling the park.
Fri, Oct. 14, 2011 - 3:22 AM: 3:15 has passed, protesters now chanting "make up your mind."
Fri, Oct. 14, 2011 - 3:28 AM: Riot police have entered the park. Dismantling tents, detaining protesters.
Fri, Oct. 14, 2011 - 3:29 AM: Protesters singing the star-spangled banner as troops move in.
Then The Denver Post reports that in the early hours of Friday morning Colorado State Patrol announced that Veteran's Park has been closed indefinitely, by executive order. Protesters had hopes that they could continue their occupation of the grounds between the hours of 5 a.m and 11 p.m. as was originally announced by Governor John Hickenlooper, Mayor Michael Hancock and Attorney General John Suthers at a Thursday news conference.
Nearly as soon as the announcement was made, #OccupyDenver tweeted:
@ OccupyDenver : Scratch the 5am thing. State Patrol says park closed indefinitely. We can continue from the sidewalks. #OccupyDenver #OccupyWallStreet
As cleanup efforts pushed forward, #OccupyDenver vowed to find a way to remain strong and actively protesting even with their main campsite being taken from them:
@ OccupyDenver : We will continue to protest, to occupy. We will find a way to do so. They can't stop this movement's future. #OccupyDenver #OccupyWallStreet
This morning as the numbers of protesters dwindled in the park, #OccupyDenver tweeted that the police are attempting to keep things as peaceful as possible and not arrest anyone if possible:
@ OccupyDenver : DPD and CSP showing hesitance to go through with intention to arrest, giving multiple chances to leave. #OccupyDenver #OccupyWallStreet
7News spoke with Colorado State Patrol Col. James Wolfinbarger, who is involved in the clean up and eviction, and said:
We have deep respect for these individuals' First Amendment rights to assemble and to voice their viewpoints. We are happy to facilitate a peaceful assembly, provided it complies with all applicable laws and permit requirements. Our goal is to give Occupy Denver and other protesters every opportunity to leave Veteran's Park in a peaceful manner.
Clean up crews are filling trucks with tents and other belongings, as of sunrise on Friday the last of the tents are being removed.
9News reports that an indeterminate number of arrests have been made, the last remaining protesters that locked arms around the "Thunderdome," the name the occupiers gave their free kitchen, have been escorted off in plastic hand ties. The kitchen is currently being dismantled and hauled off. As of sunrise, there were more police that protesters.
The message on Twitter and Facebook from Occupy Denver and its supporters seemed clear -- that although Occupy Denver has been evicted from the park, they will gather as usual at 3 p.m. today somewhere and find a way to continue their protests.
However, it appears that as of Friday morning, Occupy Denver as it has existed for more than 21 days, is no more.