Occupy Denver at six months: How relations between police and protesters soured

Categories: Occupy Denver

occupy cops baton.jpg
Tomorrow, Occupy Denver turns six months old -- and sometimes it feels as though protest years are like dog years. In the first in two posts marking the date, we look back through our notebooks to track the relationship between police and protesters, which has gone from overwhelmingly supportive (on both sides) to noticeably aggressive (on both sides) in a matter of months. Continue through for a look at how that devolved.

September: For roughly its first three weeks, Occupy Denver lived, cooked and slept at Lincoln Park -- which meant the occupation was briefly a state issue, not a city one. During this time, state troopers and Denver police officers frequented the site, which early on experienced minor fights within its homeless community, although its members' presence was welcome. In the early days, police officers could be seen dropping off food and monetary donations -- both in uniform and in plain clothes -- and protesters worked with law enforcement to organize the camp. Troopers regularly visited the site to monitor health and safety, but the camp's tent city had not become a problem -- yet.

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Brandon Marshall
Corey Donahue is arrested (the first time in a handful) during the first raid on Occupy Denver on October 14.

October:
On October 7, Westword wrote this: "Because the New York faction of the occupation has attracted police attention, its Denver peers emphasize the care with which they approach a relationship with the Denver Police Department. So far, that relationship seems excellent, marked by a long list of reliable DPD contacts on the wall inside the group's security tent, and they hope to keep it that way. ("There are definitely still people who feel very uncomfortable with a police presence," Michelle Lessans says.)"

Exactly one week later, Occupy Denver faced its first in a long line of evictions, leading to the arrests of 27 protesters, its largest mass round-up to that point. The event played a heavy role in turning internal sentiment against law enforcement, though the two continued to maintain a partnership. Since this night, pepper spray and riot gear have made consistent appearances during altercations.

On October 29, the occupation faced its first investigation for felony assault on a police officer: John Sexton lost his job as a result of the charge, which has since been commuted to interference and resisting. Photos of Sexton placed in a chokehold by a police officer circulated the Internet and became evidence in a federal hearing. At the time, Sexton told us, "I remember I'm on the ground with my face in the grass and all I can see out of my side vision is boots, so many boots. From there, I was put into a chokehold for a while before I was handcuffed and taken to the paddy wagon. A lot of people became upset in response to me being arrested."

November: Nineteen arrests took place during a Saturday protest, but the month's greatest change in pace was its prevalence of tickets. At the time, the $750 charge represented the highest bond rate to date, though it's by now taken a backseat to number as high as $50,000. After being ticketed for honking in support of the occupation during those arrests, law student Daniel Garcia told Westword, "I feel like I was harassed unnecessarily." In the same month as his story went viral, six people were ticketed for other municipal violations surrounding Occupy Denver, including pulling over in front of Civic Center Park to drop off food donations.

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Kelsey Whipple
On December 19, a Family of Love protester responds to police officers as they push him out of the park.
December: Early in the month, news came that Denver police officers created a fake Twitter account with the sole purpose of harassing occupiers. The revelation came during a hearing for an attempted federal injunction to protect Occupy Denver from police intervention with a temporary restraining order. During the same week, text messages between officers were released to the public, labeling the protesters "treehuggers" and calling them "pathetic." Some showed the other side, with one stating, "in the last two days no less than one hundred people, at protest and other places, have screamed obscenities and directed demeaning remarks at me, and i am not allowed to respond in any way. what a great system."

On December 19, protesters set fire to their shelters inside Civic Center Park as police approached to clear them. During their evacuation from the park, a handful shouted obscenities at officers, who shouted them back. Speaking on the issue later, Mayor Michael Hancock cited the event to support his suggestion that the public no longer cares about the protest.

Page down to continue reading about relations between police and protesters during six months of Occupy Denver:


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12 comments
Robert Chase
Robert Chase

The DPD presses a local issue on the attention of Occupy Denver:  its unchecked abuse of power and eagerness to commit felonies to suppress dissent.  Chief White is promoting to Deputy Chief a man who apparently perjured himself about the non-riot Corey Donahue was charged with inciting.  The repeated crimes which officers have committed against that one protester serve to demonstrate that the entire department has serious problems and should be subject to criminal investigation.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks for sharing an alternative point of view, Lance. Much appreciated.

kim jong chill
kim jong chill

I think the main reason that the relationship between occupy and police has broken down, is that the intelligent and reasonable people who were involved with occupy in the beginning left the movement once they saw the direction things were heading. Once the reasonable people distanced themselves from occupy you were left with people like Caryn Sodero and Corey Donahue. If you have the displeasure of spending more then five minutes with either of those individuals I guarantee you will why occupy has turned into a joke.Its not just the cops who can't get along with people like that but they managed to turn the whole city against the movement, which is a pretty impressive accomplishment to make the 99 percent less popular then the 1 percent.  

Light Rail Tattler
Light Rail Tattler

When this whole thing started, there were politicians trying to figure out a way to harness their vote as a Group.As soon as a tent went up in Lincoln Park, Hickenlooper was the first governor to take a tough position that it won't be tolerated.Then the police I figure consulted criminal psychologists probably correct who advised them to you patience. If you tell them they can't do something it is human psychology when in numbers to rebel.Hickenlooper didn't back them up publicly again; typical politician.The police budget ran out and along with that their patience.If there is a next time, I hope the police keep the streets open.

Jtcolfax
Jtcolfax

One thing that everyone at Occupy Denver seems to say after every police action is "we are not goign away,"  and time is bearing that out.

Guest
Guest

I believe this is a much better version of the story.

The myth of freedom in the land of the free

The US touts itself as the land of free, but it has laws which are designed to crush criticisms of the state.http://www.aljazeera.com/indep... 

Kevin
Kevin

Thanks for the concise timeline and summary, Kelsey - if Occupy Denver can successfully distance itself from those juvenile "Fuck the Police" anarchists, there may still be a slim chance to reverse thr trend toward mutual confrontation that's been building on both sides.

Good luck to everyone involved . . .  

kim jong chill
kim jong chill

Occupy has managed to turn civic center park into a popular homeless hangout. Other then facilitating the spread of scabies and showing the world their terrible spelling skills through the use of sidewalk chalk I hardly think occupy has accomplished much of anything.

Guest
Guest

Yeah Kevin because the police only want to serve and protect and if we ask nice enough we will get our freedom.  Just ask any freedom movement around the world and they will tell you the key to freedom is to ask really nicely. People are just juvenile if they demand and try and take their freedom.  Gosh, can I live in your fantasy world?

Fillmore Lankford
Fillmore Lankford

Civic Center Park has been home to the homeless since the 70s. There was no scabies. Spelling? really? who cares. And you said it yourself: ".....I hardly think...."

Fuck the Anarchists
Fuck the Anarchists

Yes, because breaking shit and spray painting A's on cars and sidewalks REALLY teaches those capitalist, conformist pigs with jobs and lives a lesson.  Douche.  I'd really like to see a "Fuck the Anarchists" march.

Seymore Ass
Seymore Ass

OH MY GOD, you TOTALLY schooled that guy by turning his words against him.  Wow, I wish I were that clever.  You are my hero.

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