Occupy Denver: Police start ticketing drivers who stop to donate in front of Civic Center Park
To give to Occupy Denver, a movement that depends considerably upon large and frequent donations, you have several options. The easiest is simply to drive by the occupation between 14th and Colfax on Broadway and put on your hazard lights for about two minutes while protesters help you remove whatever it is you're donating from your vehicle. At least, it was easy until roughly this morning, when donations began to earn both gratitude and a ticket.
Although Denver Police have not previously targeted Occupy Denver donors, Denver PD public information officer Sonny Jackson stresses that stopping illegally on the right side of the road in front of Civic Center Park is a ticketable offense. No matter how long drivers remained parked, he notes that they are doing so illegally.
"It's easy to follow," Jackson says. "If you're stopped illegally there, you will receive a ticket for breaking the law. There's no place to stop between that space. You can stop by the library by 14th Street or in any number of metered parking spaces away from that area, but if you stop in front of it, you will get a ticket."
Kelsey Whipple Police cars block Broadway during the demonstration held two weeks ago.
In the meantime, Occupy Denver's 24/7 committee, a group of protesters dedicated to serving the needs of the occupiers, are volunteering to walk to the cars of donors and take donations back to the campsite. Since Saturday's demonstration and a weekend that ended with 23 new arrests, the police presence lodged at Civic Center Park and Lincoln Park has noticeably increased, though Jackson opts not to disclose a specific number of officers. The department doesn't release resource allotments, he says.
The main focus here is not that of legality, though: It's of timing. Why did police begin ticketing in the area immediately after two days of altercations when it was previously more lax about the same offense?
"I can't speak to that," Jackson says. "Any time they stop illegally, they are violating the law and risking a ticket. I don't know what they think they'd be dropping off anyway. I don't know what they'd need to drop off."
The last part, here, is the answer. This weekend's altercation came immediately after police officers delivered a warning to occupiers Friday morning to remove any belongings in the area that could be considered encumbrances to the sidewalk -- anything that unnecessarily blocks the passageway and could prove hazardous to pedestrians. This weekend's crackdown was again a question of timing: With so many cities evicting their occupations on the same night, was the coordination a coincidence? Why choose this weekend to come down hard on a rule regarding sidewalk encumbrances? Why not earlier? Why not wait?
"I was not aware that any other cities were going to be doing the same thing on that day," Jackson says. "Honestly, I don't believe there was any kind of coordinated effort nationally. We asked the group to take down some tents, and some people did. But when we came back later, there were more tents."
The DPD monitors the area regularly and constantly assesses it. This weekend, says Jackson, the potential for problems was simply too large to ignore. "It had grown considerably and was becoming more of a hazard in the area," Jackson says. "Why this weekend versus any other weekend, I have no idea. It was just tons of lounge chairs and office furniture, and our concern is always public safety. They were becoming a hazard."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: Highest bond rate yet, photojournalist among 20 arrested."