Updated: Occupy Denver's latest eviction ends in flames, arrests and Tebowing
Updated, 12:40 p.m. December 22: Michael Clapper, one of nine arrested at Monday's raid on the Occupy Denver encampment, has officially been charged with four counts of 4th degree arson. Behind the charges are the allegation that Clapper intentionally set fire to an encumbrance and other items in the area, which endangered others. Because of this danger, the charges are classified as a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to six years in jail. The 22-year-old Westminster native faces a bail amount set at $50,000.
Update, 12:50 p.m. December 21: The criminal charges of the nine protesters arrested during Monday night's raid include arson, obstructing a street and throwing missiles. Among them, one name stands out: Nicole Sisneros, a homeless protester who was discussed on last night's episode of Countdown with Kieth Olbermann. He was arrested the same night she threw her Bible into a bonfire in protest. Click through to see the full list and our original coverage of the eviction.
Protesters arrested during Monday night's eviction of Civic Center Park:
Michael Clapper, 22: felony arson
John Cook, 35: throwing missiles
James McCollum, 18: obstructing a street
Daniel Newman, 18: throwing missiles
Dana Nobles, 24: disobeying a lawful order
Jakeob Olson, 21: throwing missiles
Alex Pickruhn, 18: interference, disobeying a lawful order
Nicole Sisneros, 27: disobeying a lawful order
Lauren Vigoda, 21: obstruction of a street, disobeying a lawful order
Update, 11 a.m. December 21: At a press conference this morning, Mayor Michael Hancock confirmed nine total arrests.
Original post: For Occupy Denver, last night ended in flames, eviction, arrests and Tebowing. At 11:30 p.m., Denver Police delivered on its promise to remove the group's small fort city. Although protesters burned a handful of the encumbrances down, approximately 200 officers in riot gear moved in with batons and pepper ball guns before they could destroy any others. All demonstrators have been evicted from Civic Center Park.
Protesters first received warning of an impending police presence around 11 p.m., when one occupier on his way to the park witnessed police donning riot gear on Lincoln. Given advance notice of their forthcoming altercation with police, protesters began to remove all valuables from inside their handmade structures and evacuate into the center of the street. Soon riot police approached via police cars and buses in a show of force that outnumbered the protesters at least five to one.
By the end of the night, four protesters were arrested, two on charges of arson and two for failing to obey a lawful order.
As most of the officers formed a line down Broadway in front of the protest, a handful closed off the street's entrance on Colfax with police cars and paddy wagons. When officers began to move in on the camp in military formation, a few protesters lit two of the cardboard structures on fire while creating a large bonfire in the center of the park. As efforts progressed, occupiers tore wooden planks and other pieces off of their forts to add to the bonfire. One protester, Nicole Sisneros, who is known fondly inside the camp as "crazy Jesus lady," threw her Bible into the fire in protest.
Kelsey Whipple Protesters started a bonfire in the center of the park and set fire to pieces of their temporary shelters.
"We're not going to win this tonight," protester Kerri Kellerman said. "Not even close. But we're not going to leave our park easily."
The relationship between police and protesters was tense, with riot batons directed at both press and protesters.
Last night marked the first aggressive altercation between the two parties since November 13, and though Occupy Denver's numbers had decreased as a result of the late hour and cold, protesters stood their ground as long as possible when asked to vacate the park. Many hurled insults at officers, who responded in kind, and several occupiers threw encumbrances into the street in order to prohibit the police from moving in.
The night's tension level could be easily measured by its change in chants. Cheers of "You're sexy! You're cute! Take off your riot suit!" turned quickly to accusations of murder and violence. Late in the night, they transitioned to cries against police brutality and allegations of violations of First Amendment rights. "Go to hell, you fascist pigs!" yelled one protester.
As police blocked off Broadway, Sisneros attempted to lie down in front of oncoming officers as they pushed protesters out of the park, but she was removed by another protester before she could be arrested.
At 11:50, officers issued a warning for all parties to vacate the park, accompanied by a deadline five minutes later. While a fire team began to extinguish the flames growing inside the park, police officers attempted to shove a television news reporter out of the area, and Westword received the same physical treatment.
Kelsey Whipple A Family of Love protester responds to police officers as they push him out of the park.
Police chief Robert White, as he promised at his meeting with occupiers earlier in the day, was present in person at their eviction. White wore plainclothes and watched as the DPD struggled to remove all protesters from Civic Center Park. Later, when they demanded to speak with him on spot, he opted not to show himself.
After police moved protesters out of the park, they continued to push the group down Broadway past the library and blocked the road off to 13th Avenue. Before receiving another demand to vacate the street, a handful of protesters danced defiantly in front of police while others Tebowed in the center of Broadway. Still more sang a kooky rendition of "God Bless America." The sight marked a strange mix of elation and aggression in the face of the movement's largest struggle in more than a month.
Those who could gather their belongings dragged them out of the area through the snow on tarps, and the rest continued to march down Broadway through the center of the street before moving on to Colfax and Clarkson. There they found a Public Works truck, and a handful of occupiers jumped inside to reclaim some of their property. Followed by officers in riot gear, protesters were asked to take to the sidewalk immediately or risk arrest.
By 1 a.m., a large number of police had returned to the buses, and multiple bulldozers and oversized waste trucks drove along Broadway to remove all belongings from the area. For now, the entire campsite has been cleared of fires, protesters and their private property.
"We'll be back tomorrow, and we'll just end up doing this all again later," protester Jason Ball promised. "What point was there in talking with the chief of police if the same day things got more violent than ever?"
Continue through for more photos of last night's eviction.