Occupy Denver: Thunderdome expands to radio, goes mobile
At the Thunderdome's last public appearance, a protest against the Colorado Democrats banquet at the Sheraton on Sunday, no one was arrested. Instead, the former Occupy Denver kitchen and erstwhile symbol of its activism served finger food. The point was clear -- feeding the homeless directly in front of $2,500 tables -- but the menu was foremost: lemon mushroom arancini, asian caprese, vegetarian tea sandwiches and "assorted crudités."
In recent months, the Thunderdome's push for autonomy has evolved into a more organized, if occasionally more polite, political offshoot. For its latest protest, held February 11, the Thunderdome worked with Occupy Denver as part of its "No Confidence Rally" to indicate distrust in both of the country's major political parties. But the group effort wasn't particularly coordinated: Both groups kind of just showed up, says Justin "Crunchy" Gwin, the Thunderdome's first cook.
Since November 13, when three arrests took place after a scuffle in Civic Center Park, the Thunderdome has distanced itself from the organization that became its original home. But Gwin is quick to point out that this is not the occupation's fault. Although the two bodies continue to disagree on occasion, most often in regard to the movement's homeless population, the move for autonomy was motivated by the group's increasingly tense relationship with the Denver Police Department.
Kelsey Whipple Thunderdome cooks Justin "Crunchy" Gwin, Corey Donahue and Pat Marsden prepare food for the group's protest at the Sheraton.
On November 13, for example, Thunderdome cook Corey Donahue was arrested along with two other protesters when police officers entered the park to remove a card table set up to serve food. The city's anti-encumbrance ordinance, and the now regular enforcement of it at Civic Center Park, placed a significant damper on the Thunderdome's ability to continue to provide free food. In November and December, food items weighed heavily in the piles of items Public Works trucks removed from the occupation after altercations.
"There's no reason to get a felony because you set up a card table," Gwin says. "Every time we set up a table, they came in and knocked it down and arrested people and ruined the entire experiment. It was a pretty hard decision to make, but since we're all facing charges from the occupation we really couldn't all afford to continue to buck the system at the time."
Kelsey Whipple Police don riot gear before visiting the Thunderdome event on Sunday.
Click through for more photos and the group's future plans.