Occupy Denver: Large police presence moves in on three tents with pepper spray and arrests
Update, 8:44 p.m. November 12: According to Occupy Denver's website, sixteen arrests have been confirmed so far. The group remains mobilized downtown. While both Civic Center Park and Lincoln Park have been closed, protesters will be allowed to camp outside again in the future, but will not be allowed to obstruct passageways or establish any areas that might do so.
Previously, the occupation included a front desk, a satellite community and a handful of set sleep spaces in addition to its kitchen, the Thunderdome.
Update, 7:34 p.m. November 12: Both Lincoln Park and Civic Center Park have been closed, and Occupy Denver has been evicted from the area. Police, armed with pepper ball guns, pepper spray and shields, have followed the remaining protesters as they take to the 16th Street Mall. Arrests are still being made, and Occupy Denver protesters continue to shout chants as they stand against the police. For updated video, try the occupation's live feed.
Original post: By now, both Occupy Denver protesters and police know the drill. This afternoon, Civic Center Park achieved a new high in police numbers, with the most significant riot gear presence to date during another clash over tents. As the afternoon progressed and arrests were made, the numbers spoke volumes about the city's perspective on handling the occupation: Approximately 100 protesters and 200 police officers clashed over the existence of three tents.
The tents themselves were removed within five minutes after police moved in on the area around 5:15 p.m. Officers gathered in the corner of Lincoln Park starting at 3 p.m., when they also began to block off sections of both Lincoln and Broadway in preparation for an altercation with protesters. Both streets remain closed off from Colfax to 13th.
A force of at least 200 police officers grouped and flanked protesters on all sides before moving in when the area grew dark and quickly removing the group's three tents. Protesters sang and hummed the imperial march, Darth Vader's Star Wars theme song, as officers closed in on them. The efficiency of the spectacle was notable: Officers remained in formation and shouted sharp commands for all protesters to back off, regardless of their position. Those who did not respond with immediate haste received pepper spray reinforcement.
Kelsey Whipple Protesters react to pepper spray and smoke created from a fire extinguisher.
Within fifteen minutes of moving in, officers completely cleared people from the sidewalk bordering Civic Center Park, while another police group across the street cordoned off Lincoln Park. Police used caution tape to rope off the entirety of Lincoln Park, and the goal is to close both parks at the end of the night. (Their first round of tape was usurped by protesters, who cut it down and removed it.) Early Friday morning, protesters were greeted with warnings against encumbrances on the sidewalk, and many members have been expecting an attempt to shut down the area in the meantime.
Because of the group's small size in comparison to the police force, a handful of protesters shouted an announcement to march to the 16th Street Mall and temporarily evacuate Civic Center Park. "Make them chase us! Take the mall!" protesters yelled. During the altercation with the police, the group took turns physically blocking Broadway and then its intersection with Colfax in an attempt to gain public attention for the force used to move them out of the park. One protester was almost run over by a car when its driver refused to stop and drove directly into the gathering.
Kelsey Whipple A protester is arrested while attempting to cross the street.
Once the area was cleared of protesters, police moved in with paddy wagons and trash trucks to collect arrested protesters and all of the belongings left behind. (The disposal of protesters' property is currently under investigation from the ACLU.) It is unclear how many protesters have been arrested, and the group is still marching on the mall at the moment.
Check back for updates, and click through to the next page for additional photos of tonight's unrest.