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.
On Saturday afternoon, Occupy Denver demonstrators returned to protest downtown. The Denver Post estimates 2,000 demonstrators participated in a peaceful march through the city, though after the majority of protestors left at 2 p.m., a small group proceeded to block Broadway and erect communal dining tents in the park.
Denver Police moved the protesters out of the street at 6:30 p.m. using pepper spray. 9News reports 24 more Occupy Denver protesters were arrested Saturday evening.
A statement released from Eric Brown of the Governor's office on Saturday reads:
"We respect the First Amendment, but we can't condone illegal activity," he said. "State troopers and Denver police are showing great restraint in the face of very difficult situations. The governor and senior staff have closely monitored the situation in downtown Denver all day and continue to do so. We urge all protesters to obey the law."
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock also released a statement:
"The vast majority of Occupy Denver protesters today exercised their free speech rights peacefully and within the bounds of the law. Unfortunately, some did not, and Denver police officers and State troopers were forced to take action and make multiple arrests."
"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.
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