Occupy Denver profile: Homeless since 13, Chris Bidwell joins a new street family

chris bidwell small.jpg
Chris Bidwell.
To hear him tell it, Chris Bidwell's trench coat is a black wool guardian angel. Last year, it prevented third-degree burn from a firecracker gone off course. Today, it serves as both picnic blanket and protector against wet grass at Civic Center Park. Bidwell's black, military-style boots weigh ten pounds each, but it's his guardian trench coat that he keeps returning to. He has no ID, no Social Security card, no job and a meeting with a lawyer in thirty minutes, but at least he has this jacket.

"It's the best thing I own, and one of the few," Bidwell says. "It has saved me from quite a few nasty situations."

chris bidwell 1.jpg
Kelsey whipple
Chris Bidwell plays one of Occupy Denver's shared guitars.
Underneath the black jacket is a black shirt followed by black pants, those enormous black steel-toed boots and a black-cuff bracelet with a metallic skull on the front. It's a common and relatively consistent misconception of the occupation that everyone who wears black (and about half of the total) is an anarchist, but this is not true of either the whole or of Bidwell. Although his time with the occupation has perhaps been shorter than average, it began as a direct result of his history with the police.

Since age thirteen, the now twenty-year-old Bidwell has identified as homeless, but in addition to spending time on the streets, he's also been in halfway houses, in juvenile detention and in lock-up for a variety of usually minor offenses. "At thirteen is when I came out as gay, and my parents booted me," he says, relentlessly maintaining eye contact in a way that's both comforting and disconcerting. "That's kind of when all the fuckery started."

This is a word that Bidwell uses often, usually to reference some sort of disaster or disappointment, though he apologizes for any tough language.

At thirteen, he and his younger brother were threatened when a stranger broke into their home, and Bidwell retaliated by pulling a knife out and walking the man out of his house. But when he crossed his property line, he was charged with felony menacing, for which he served two years in detention.

The charge was wiped from his record when he turned eighteen, but it was not his last. For this reason, among others, Bidwell joined the protest this past Friday, the day he discovered all of its tents had been removed. The next day, after linking arms in a human chain where Broadway joins 14th, he was arrested.

"I've got a work ethic," says Bidwell, who has made it a personal goal to maintain the presence of at least one protest sign at all times. "I just don't have a job. And I'll do everything I can to support a movement that recognizes the futility of that and wants to change the system that supports it."

Following the second set of arrests, and thanks to a $700 bail charge, Bidwell was the last to be released on bond. The first thing he did when he got out was return to Civic Center Park, get in line at the group's general assembly and thank his fellow occupiers for supporting him. Since then, Bidwell is most often seen playing one of the group's shared guitars. Music is both what his life evolves around and how he made money as a busker on the 16th Street Mall before his time with Occupy Denver.

"I've gone through a lot of pain in my life, and I'm not afraid to put it in my music," Bidwell says. His voice is soulful and surprisingly loud, even in the morning chaos of the occupation. "I believe that music is a language, but rather than conveying thought, it conveys emotion. You can move to it, but it's going to make you feel something."

While he looks down at the guitar, his hair, a mixture of black and platinum left over from when it was purple, green and black, covers his face. If his fingers seem especially nimble, it might be a result of a deteriorating joint disease that lets him lock his arms and rotate them 360 degrees but leaves him unable to feel one of the camp's puppies nipping on his thumb. When Bidwell mentions this, it is without complaint: The other members of his street family have seen worse, he says.

"I don't let the news and other people paint everything through rose-colored glasses," he says. "I see things from the street, and I take that as truth. I see misery, and I see poverty, and sometimes I also see happiness."

Right now, however, he sees patience. After all, his lawyer is late.

More from our Occupy Denver archives: "Occupy Denver and Tea Party protests make Denver America's angriest city, says Daily Beast."

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22 comments
Kirk Behnke
Kirk Behnke

I really love how people are so quick to judge and use their "FOX News" mentality to condemn that which they do not understand... Not only that, but then have the nerve to use the Bible and Jesus Christ to try to back up their pointless arguments! But I am appalled at the total lack of Christianity coming from the so-called "Christians" who have been posting.... Sooo..... I have a few comments for some of the people posting on here.....

1) @ Job: Really Job? If he was a Christian he wouldn't be in this mess?? I know dozens of homeless people with kids and families who ARE working and trying to better themselves and still have to sleep under a bridge in below zero weather, and they are Christian and "have Christ in their life". They also go to the OD rallies and are trying to be heard so they can better themselves and their families' situations. What does Christ or God have against them??? 2) @Job: (again):: Speaking of helping the homeless... have you helped out anyone who is homeless? Have you volunteered at a shelter or a food bank, or even given change to a person on the street? Have you kept someone from freezing to death by giving them a warm meal and a place to stay for the night? I doubt it... If you really think that these people have chosen this lifestyle, then you are more misguided than I give you credit for.

3) Job: (sigh):: If you have read the Bible you would know that Jesus was one who would help those in need, he would be down there with those at the Occupy Camp. Not on Wall Street drinking it up with the Money Lenders and Philistines.

4) @SAKARA: (Someone new) They are not protesting Hollywood Stars who live in Mansions because they are NOT the one's making Financial Policies and Taxing the poor while giving the rich even more tax breaks, you lil twit... And on a personal note, I'd rather be a loser like him if it means I don't have to be a sanctimonious, self-serving sheep like you!

5) @AlyriaPetersen:: Bless You!  

6) @TheWatcher:: AMEN! You are so right!

So the question of the hour is "What would Jesus do?".... Well he wouldn't call people names, he wouldn't be bigoted against someone due to their social standing, he wouldn't judge someone by their political views or sexual orientation, he wouldn't lower himself to the levels I have seen on this very page and anyone who disagrees with that really needs to pray on that! Who are you to judge people without even knowing them? who are you to call people "loser" without knowing the situation(s) that have put them on the street? How many of you are just ONE paycheck away from being there yourselves? Some folks really need to be ashamed of themselves, and the sad part of it is that the don't even know it! 

If you are a true Christian, Hebrew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddist, Wiccan, or whatever, you should help out your fellow man, and give them a hand up when they have fallen, because if you fall wouldn't you want someone there to catch you? 

the watcher
the watcher

wow. thou shall not judge. job read your bible more. or open your mind to other view points. one of the reasons the occupy movement started was to open the eyes of people to what is going on, truly going on. and we still have people who want to close their eyes and pretend everyone can get a job and have a place to stay. some who stay overnight at occupy actually have homes, they stay to show support to the movement. so it's not just the homeless that are staying overnight.when i first ran into the occupy movement, i didn't really know anyone, chris and his friends have welcomed me and helped me come to some understandings about my own life. he is a good person. when i was having trouble he would stay and talk to me. It's sad people will judge others and not even know one thing about them. if you want to judge him as a homeless mall rat with nothing better to do, at least talk to him before you try to label him as something he is not. he is a strong person whom would do anything to help if he is able.

Alyriapeterson
Alyriapeterson

Chris happens to be my brother a brave man and a wonderful laugh when u need it he found me when I was 15 been there when I need him since the Jesus does not help everything nethier does a job when you have no way to get one I love him to death say what u want but he's one of the strongest people I know

NaiveNoMore
NaiveNoMore

Chris has been through hard times, just like all the 99% of us. It's time we stand behind people like him.

WE ARE THE 99%!

SAKARA
SAKARA

these are the losers who are protesting against....well, they aren't protesting against hollywood celebs who live in 20 million dollar mansions, that's for sure.

this 20 year old idiot could join the army, and get an education---but he'd rather be a homeless loser protesting against whatever the fuck the loser is protesting against.

Bostjan Avsec
Bostjan Avsec

WALL STREET PROTESTS...NOT ANTI WALL-STREET AT ALL, BUT INSTEAD RACIALLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE AGAINST WHITES !!! ANTI WALL-STREET PROTESTS ARE ALSO KNOWN AS WELL UNDER ZIONIST "TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP" !!! TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP FROM HANDS OF WHITE AMERICANS TO SO CALLED "MINORITIES"(COMMUNISM) PER ZIONIST/JEWISH) WASHINGTON DC AND COMMUNIST MOSCOW WHERE NEW STALIN IS IN PLACE(Putin) http://multiculturalismisterro...

THIS NEWS IS RELATED TO "WHITES AREN’T WELCOME IN AMERICA ANY LONGER" !!! OUT OF AMERICA WITH WHITES NOW !!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... OR http://www.youtube.com/user/Bo... <== OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE RECORDED LIVE IN 2009. These are hard facts about lunatic ZIONIST Obama/Bush's twilight zone administrations(HORROR) or genocide against white population(ask your local newspaper/media why do they KNOWINGLY keep silent about crime/genocide !!? Ask them why do they KNOWINGLY participate in crime/genocide !!! BECAUSE SILENCE = CRIME !!!). Just in case ( http://www.dailymotion.com/vid... and make sure to play one from beginning..you already know why)

FOR MORE VISIT "MULTICULTURALISM = TERRORISM & OBAMA = OSAMA"http://stateofterror.blogspot....OROBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNIONhttp://avsecbostjan.blogspot.c... FROM 911 TO AMERICAN WHITE REFUGEES FILLING ASYLUM ABROAD RIGHT NOW !!! LEARN TRUTH PER WHO, HOW, AND WHY HAVE RUINED YOU..

job
job

Hey Kelsey if this kid had Jesus in his life he wouldn't be in this mess. Tell Mrs Whipple what happens to these mall rats after the protest is over. Are you going to be there when they need a place to sleep or eat. Nope but I'm sure when you go home tonight and take a hot shower, have a good meal maybe watch some TV, how will it feel that you are bolstering your career with profile's of vagrants. Did you ever stop to think by you profiling these people you are supporting there lifestyle of homelessness. They are never going to get off the street, when you support their irresponsible behavior. John wait then you'd have no one to write about.

Manny
Manny

Yeah. I'm one of the musicians he plays with a lot and his strength WILL suprise you. So I second that, Alyria.

LadyJParker79
LadyJParker79

Ms. Whipple is doing her job as a journalist, and writing about the protestors from their POV, which many major media outlets aren't doing. Why don't you take your sorry ass back to "Glen-Beck-i-stan" keep jerking your doom stick to Fox News, and leave the real writing to people smarter than you. Skeet-skeet-skeet.

job
job

Pearls before swine. It is you who doesn't know Jesus.

LadyJParker
LadyJParker

Yeah! Jesus was all about the civil disobedience, yo.

job
job

If she was doing her job she would be objective. Not a talking head for the protestors.

Bostjan Avsec
Bostjan Avsec

WALL STREET PROTESTS...NOT ANTI WALL-STREET AT ALL, BUT INSTEAD RACIALLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE AGAINST WHITES !!! ANTI WALL-STREET PROTESTS ARE ALSO KNOWN AS WELL UNDER ZIONIST "TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP" !!! TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP FROM HANDS OF WHITE AMERICANS TO SO CALLED "MINORITIES"(COMMUNISM) PER ZIONIST/JEWISH) WASHINGTON DC AND COMMUNIST MOSCOW WHERE NEW STALIN IS IN PLACE(Putin) http://multiculturalismisterro...

THIS NEWS IS RELATED TO "WHITES AREN’T WELCOME IN AMERICA ANY LONGER" !!! OUT OF AMERICA WITH WHITES NOW !!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... OR http://www.youtube.com/user/Bo... <== OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE RECORDED LIVE IN 2009. These are hard facts about lunatic ZIONIST Obama/Bush's twilight zone administrations(HORROR) or genocide against white population(ask your local newspaper/media why do they KNOWINGLY keep silent about crime/genocide !!? Ask them why do they KNOWINGLY participate in crime/genocide !!! BECAUSE SILENCE = CRIME !!!). Just in case ( http://www.dailymotion.com/vid... and make sure to play one from beginning..you already know why)

FOR MORE VISIT "MULTICULTURALISM = TERRORISM & OBAMA = OSAMA"http://stateofterror.blogspot....OROBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNIONhttp://avsecbostjan.blogspot.c... FROM 911 TO AMERICAN WHITE REFUGEES FILLING ASYLUM ABROAD RIGHT NOW !!! LEARN TRUTH PER WHO, HOW, AND WHY HAVE RUINED YOU..

Occupy or die trying
Occupy or die trying

Bravo at OD we have fed 400 people a day before the corrupted State and there little bunch broke the Constitution maybe (job) should learn it sometime

LadyJParker79
LadyJParker79

Your mother was screaming "Oh my God!!!" last night when I was licking the chocolate ice cream off her ass.

Native Tint
Native Tint

Job sorry to say... just like the police have always stated... long before the DNC, long before Occupy showed up... that is THERE PARK. not yours... not mine. Obviously you have not been down there for a while... when i speak of a while i mean for a few years.

job
job

Want to feed people go open up a soup kitchen and get out of our park

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