When: Sundays, 5:00 to 7:30 (Will meet from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. on 1/5/14 due to the march in the evening).
Where: 2068 Locust Street, Denver CO 80207
Come join us as we protest at the home of Tami Door, CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP). The DDP promoted and helped push through the Urban Camping Ban, and Tami Door took the lead in doing so. Freedom of Information Act requests show communications between her and Albus Brooks sharing how big businesses interested in purchasing property in Denver were turned off by seeing homeless people on 16th Street Mall, to which Albus Brooks: Denver City Councilman replied, “Dear Lord!”
Brooks’ shock was not at the crisis of homelessness in Denver, but that anyone in business should have to witness that crisis. He and Door both believe our homeless community should be neither seen, nor heard, and, in fact, not even covered by so much as a blanket. They continue to support the ban they created, even after it has failed to achieve many of the stated goals, such as helping homeless individuals to get more services. Instead, people forced to live on the streets are getting less sleep, more police harassment, and live with more fear (see the Report From the Streets at www.denverhomelessoutloud.org).
Two business members of the DDP have come out against the Urban Camping Ban, calling on the Mayor and City Council members to amend or repeal it, given its many failures. We now call on it’s biggest proponent, CEO Tami Door, to recognize what her own DDP members have recognized: the Urban Camping Ban has not met its most basic promises and needs to be repealed.
Yesterday a highly militarized police force arrived at the home of 63 year old Sahara Donahue to evict her from her residence of 24 years. She was petitioning US Bank for an additional 60 days to remain in her home, so she could have some time to find a new place to live, secure her belongings and leave her home with dignity. She came to the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition and Occupy Denver General Assembly to ask for our help. She knew no one in Occupy Denver prior to reaching out. We immediately started mobilizing to try to get her the assistance she needed and a group went up to her house for the first rumored eviction on Thursday 10/25. When that eviction didn’t happen, we planned an in-town action at US Bank on Monday for Sahara to try to find someone to speak with about her situation, with carpools up to her house later that day as the eviction was said to be scheduled for Tuesday 10/30. Occupiers laid barricades from fallen trees to prevent moving trucks and workers from entering the property and were able to stave off the eviction for a few hours. At 2:45pm ten or more truckloads of police in full combat gear armed with live-ammo AR-15’s, and grenade launchers arrived on the scene & forced occupiers to the ground at gun point. Police then made their way to the house, broke down the front door, threw Sahara to the ground in her own kitchen and pointed their guns at the heads of a mother and son who were in the house with Sahara along with others. They continued to break items in the house as they searched it. They unplugged the modem, which was the only mode of communication as there was no cell phone coverage in the area, in order to stop the livestream and all communications. After the livestream cut out, the occupy denver legal team spent a harrowing hour in communication blackout wondering if they would be receiving calls from the hospital instead of the jail this time. This psychological violence did not stop one brave activist from jumping into the bucket of the bulldozer that was going to tear through the barricades and forced the operator to stop for several minutes. Three arrests were made, two activists were assaulted and all have been released. Many of the people on the ground have survived multiple occupations and riot cop lines but all agree that this was the most surreal and violent state repression they have experienced protesting. There has been overwhelming community support as other activists and concerned people watched the unnecessary militarized drama unfold online. Everyone is asking “Seriously, why are they in military gear?” All captions for the following photographs are actual comments made on the Occupy Denver Facebook Page.
Sheriffs, SWAT, and Assault Rifles – A Foreclosure Story by Michael Steadman
Idaho Springs, Colorado may seem like a quiet, peaceful, and even quaint little town off I-70 in the mountains west of Denver. However, in the early afternoon of October 30, 2012, the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s office proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that looks can be extremely deceiving. Make no mistake; this is not a kind hearted Mayberry RFD type of law enforcement. This was a tactical, military style assault against unarmed, peaceful protesters.
But first, let’s go back a bit in order to give you a little better understanding of the events leading up to, as well as during their demonstration of excessive use of force.
Sahara Donahue has lived in her home for over 20 years, has been a volunteer in her community, and was a decent law abiding citizen. She suffered injuries from a near-fatal accident, including a head injury that was not properly diagnosed until over a year after the accident. She could no longer perform the duties of her job, and therefore was forced to rely on the generosity of friends to help pay her mortgage for several years. She made every attempt to communicate and work with the banks, and even retained the services of an attorney, in the hopes of finding some resolution to keep her home. However, the banks (as well as a corrupt realtor) apparently had different plans.
These are protestors they are standing over with machine guns???? -L.R.
After she was given a run-around by US Bank, several of us made our way up the canyon to stand with her and support her in case the eviction went through the following day. Later in the day we were informed that the only compromise offered to Sahara involved her immediate eviction – BUT – they would be magnanimous enough to store her things for 30 days. Those of us at the house began planning our course of action for the remainder of the night as well as for Eviction Day.
We barricaded the driveway with fallen trees in order to limit access to the house, and held several impromptu meetings in order to discuss our tactics. Sahara’s wishes were for us to be respectful when the Sheriff arrived, since she has a history with this community. We agreed that we would all respect her wishes and approach the situation in a peaceful manner. We were led to believe that the realtor would be arriving with a crew of workers to remove items from the house, and the Sheriff would be there to “keep the peace.” Sahara had also asked one of the group’s members to be a spokesman. He would speak directly with those who arrived and deliver legal letters to the Sheriff. This way things would proceed smoothly and help eliminate any unnecessary escalation.
As night closed in we shared stories, discussed ideas, and enjoyed each other’s company in a very peaceful positive environment. Eventually people began to settle down for the night. Most were sleeping in the house on couches or on the floor, while I and another went out to sleep in our tents beside the barricade in case of any unexpected late night surprises.
The following morning we all began to stir as coffee was brewing. There seemed to be an overall sense of optimism among the group. We received word of some more people coming up to join us, and we had another meeting to determine tactics regarding the expected arrivals for the eviction. Several of us collected more timber to fortify the barricades, others were making food, and everyone was ready for whatever was coming (or so we thought).
The first arrival of the day was a truck hauling a dumpster that was apparently to be left there for the workers to put her things in. Seeing the barricades, he got out and spoke with us. He was very friendly and supportive towards us, and then called his supervisor who after several minutes instructed him to bring the dumpster back. We had our first victory of the day and the excitement filled the air.
A while later a white van filled with workers from a “day labor” company pulled up and stopped. These were the men who were supposed to remove her belongings from the house. They needed to wait for the Sheriff to arrive, and since there is no cell phone service in the area, they just relaxed and spoke with us for a while. We even tried to recruit a few of them to stand with us, but to no avail. Finally they decided to leave in order to go back down the mountain to find a place with better reception to make calls. We all began a second celebration as we filled the air with singing, “Na na na na, hey hey hey, GOOD-BYE!”
Things were really starting to look up for us. We felt we had made some incredible progress. Then we heard a vehicle coming. Around the corner I saw a Sheriff’s vehicle through the trees as it was approaching. Then I saw behind it another, and another, and another. About 10 vehicles filled with men in what appeared to be full battle gear (and assault weapons already in hand) began to fill the road in front of the house. In all our planning and meetings, we never expected this kind of response. After all, we were led to believe that the Sheriff was only going to be there to “keep the peace.” And don’t forget to keep in mind that we were unarmed, peaceful demonstrators.
The spokesman of our group got on the megaphone and began trying to get everyone to converge up at the house, but it was already too late. The Tactical Response Team had already reacted. As we were rushing up the driveway, we were cut-off by several men gripping their assault rifles as they began shouting at us to get on the ground on our knees. To my left, the spokesman was coming up, shouting on the megaphone, attempting to discern who was in charge since he had the letters to deliver. The officers didn’t care, in fact as the spokesman was telling them he had letters, one of the officers shouted back, “No, you don’t have letters!” and they continued ordering us to get on our knees. We remained standing and continued trying to open up some kind of conversation.
At this point, I was standing there with the spokesman, and a few others. Mind you, I am about 6’2” tall and about 200 lbs. The others standing with me were as big, if not bigger, with the exception of an older gentleman to my left. Since none of us would get on our knees, these fully armed, militarized officers decided to arrest the smallest and oldest person there. With all their firepower and intimidation techniques, they targeted the least imposing person there. They put him face down in the dirt and gravel, and cuffed his hands behind him with their zip-tie handcuffs.
Finally, the man in charge came forward, but when he was presented with the letters, he informed us that he would take them but it didn’t matter. He then folded them up without even really looking at them. It was obvious that those with the money and the guns couldn’t have cared less about the injustice taking place, and they were ready and willing to do whatever was necessary to shut us down.
I was offered a ride by one of the activists, since the Sheriff was so gracious to let some of us go without further incident. As we made our way down the private drive, we saw at the bottom of the hill; the bulldozer that was just waiting to tear through our barricades, and the van of day labor workers ready to fulfill their job descriptions. After a couple turns down Hwy 103 another realization occurred to me. There on the shoulder of the road was an ambulance waiting on stand-by. Maybe I am mistaken, but it would appear that the Sheriff’s Department was prepared to do, and had every intention of doing, whatever was necessary to obey their bank’s wishes.
We pulled into a local convenience store after making it into town. As we sat collecting our thoughts, and trying to decompress after the events that had transpired, I was struck by something else. I watched the people of the town as they nonchalantly passed by and it occurred to me that this was a sort of metaphor about our entire society today. Just up the hill, innocent people were having guns shoved in their faces, people were being evicted from their homes, and much more. At the same time, the rest of the town went about its daily routine, completely oblivious as to what was going on just around the corner. – M.S.
“Military tactics, Military equipment, Military mindset. Looks like this nation is occupied by the bankers military.” -K.Y.
Later around 6:45pm Occupiers and other residents returned with Sahara to help her sift through her things which were now thrown in piles on the outskirts of the property. Many of her possessions were destroyed by the movers. One Occupier who was there for the armed raid, and stayed to help said, “Seeing these things that represented a large cross-section of this woman’s life strewn across the front yard was one of the worst things I have ever had to witness in my life. Why is the general population letting the big banks do this to us?” As the temperature started to drop as night set in, the only thing people could do was to cover her piles of belongings with tarps, as there was nowhere for her to take her things. Sahara was only able to take her two dogs, Rodeo and French Fry, and what ever she could fit in her small vehicle. She is currently staying in a motel, and is uncertain as to where she will be able to live next. Occupiers will continue to assist her until her living situation has stabilized.
On Sunday July 29, Occupy Denver marched to support the citizens of Anaheim, CA in their ongoing resistance against their city’s violent and racist police force. This action brought attention to recent police atrocities in Anaheim, and served as a reminder that Denver’s own police department is essentially a taxpayer-funded street gang with a detailed history of murders, racist beatings, and political repression. (See the links at the bottom for documented cases of Denver Police atrocities.)
Here is my personal account of my participation in the march and my false arrest by DPD:
I arrived at the march as it staged outside the skate park. I had my bicycle with me, and rode my bicycle throughout the march, mostly because biking requires less energy than walking. The march took the streets and went under the underpass by the Rockies stadium as we made our way downtown. We unfurled our banner reading “Stop Police Oppression– Solidarity with Anaheim” and chanted phrases such as “Justice for Anaheim”, “We want equality, stop police brutality” and “How do you spell injustice? DPD!”. At least four DPD vehicles began following us at this point, and they blared their sirens in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the game day crowd from hearing our message. The leading DPD vehicle was an SUV driven by one William J Andrejasich Jr, a Sergeant in DPD’s Special Events division.
We made our way to the downtown area of Denver, and Sergeant Andrejasich and his colleagues repeatedly attempted to use their voices and vehicles to discourage the march from keeping its message in the street. DPD prefers to see political expression confined to the narrow sidewalk where it cannot affect business as usual. This march had other ideas. I myself chose to remain on my bicycle in the street, as riding my bicycle on the sidewalk would be a violation of traffic laws and DPD will use any excuse to harass and arrest known Occupy activists.
The march continued down the 16th street mall as we continued to agitate and inform the public about the police murders and subsequent attacks on residents in Anaheim. Our police escort continued to ride very close to us until we arrived at Civic Center Park. After the police caravan departed, we decided to resume marching. We made our way through Lincoln Park and began marching past the Capitol on Colfax Ave.
As the march approached the intersection of Colfax and Pennsylvania, several DPD vehicles pulled into the middle of the street and officers stepped out of the vehicles. Sensing that DPD was looking for a fight, the march diverted onto the sidewalk. At this point, three officers charged our “Stop Police Oppression” banner, one of them striking it so as to break the wooden support pole holding it together. After breaking the banner (which appeared to be the primary target), the officers proceeded to grab and arrest the protester who had been using the megaphone to decry police violence throughout the march. They led him away into a car, and Sergeant Andrejasich barked at us that “if you go in the street again, we will arrest you.” This threat seemed absurd given that whenever we march, DPD’s vehicles that follow us essentially shut down traffic anyway. Sergeant Andrejasich was clearly hoping that by threatening arrest and possible violence, he could frighten our solidarity march into giving up and going home. He should know by now that Occupy Denver doesn’t play like that. Having seen DPD use violence or the threat of violence countless times to attempt to silence dissent, I figured someone should resolve Sergeant Andrejasich’s confusion about the relationship between his department and our subversive assembly. Using the megaphone dropped during the recent arrest, I told him that “Occupy Denver does not negotiate with terrorists, and the Denver Police Department is a terrorist organization.” Upon hearing this, Sergeant Andrejasich instantly went red in the face and grabbed my wrist, at which point he and another officer pulled me into the street, and while holding my wrists attempted to twist my arms into a painful position (I have a sprained wrist and was wearing a splint). I was handcuffed, and when I asked Sergeant Andrejasich why I was being arrested, he replied “for obstructing the street.” I told him that I was legally on my bicycle for the entire march route and he said nothing in reply to this. He then handed me off to two other officers who placed me in a car and took me to DPD’s offices in the Downtown Denver Detention Center. Interestingly, Sergeant Andrejasich is not listed as my arresting officer, and none of my arrest paperwork contains any of his information. We only know it was him due to his past interactions with our group. Before I was processed into the jail, I sat in a DPD District 6 cell while I listened to three officers outside the cell flip through the book deciding what to charge me with, highlighting the fact that this was a false, politically-motivated arrest. Upon being booked into the jail, I was informed that the megaphone I used had been confiscated by the police, presumably as “evidence” of my obstructing the street.
Two more arbitrary arrests of protesters were made after my own; during one of these arrests a ten-year-old child was forcefully knocked to the ground by one of the arresting officers. The march continued well after my arrest, culminating in a heated standoff between the remaining protesters and a heavily armed line of officers outside DPD’s District 6 headquarters as the march chanted “free our friends” and continued to hurl passionate criticism at Denver’s corrupt, racist, and violent police force.
After the march subsided, a group of occupiers gathered outside the jail awaiting the release of myself and my arrested comrades. Sergeant Andrejasich again approached this group, and told them that they were creating a disturbance (even though they were being quiet) and that as a warning had already been issued to the group, he could arrest any of them at any time with no further warning. Sergeant Andrejasich seems to believe that he can operate with impunity, arresting activists simply because they irritate him or offend his political views even when no laws are broken.
Sergeant Andrejasich’s comic arrogance represents DPD’s belief that they have the sole power to decide who is breaking the law and have the right to choose when to selectively enforce these laws. Everybody knows that jaywalking is common practice in Denver; one can jaywalk in front of a police officer without any fear of reprisal. However, when one is walking in the street as part of a radical political march, DPD suddenly decides these laws are worth enforcing with great zeal and armed force. Occupy Denver rejects the Denver Police Department’s twisted, politically selective interpretation of municipal codes, and we reject their claim that they protect and serve the citizens of this city. Their long record of murders, racist beatings, and politically-motivated violence makes their moral depravity obvious to anyone who is paying attention. We call on the City of Denver to condemn this corrupt and criminal police department, and to take their destinies and the safety of their communities into their own hands.
Our Anaheim Solidarity march was just one small part of the struggle against police oppression in Denver. There is a long history of resistance against police oppression in Denver, and this resistance is ongoing. We encourage everybody to attend the upcoming March Against Police Terror, which meets on August 21st at 6 PM in La Alma Park (13th & Mariposa). More information on this important community event can be found here:
Here is a short list of news stories related to Denver Police atrocities outside of their attacks on Occupy
For Immediate Release: Response to The Century 16 Shooting & Occupy Links
Today all eyes are on Colorado, and we at Occupy Denver are all deeply saddened by this horrific act. Our hearts go out to all the victims of this shooting. We have circulated this man’s photo throughout our internal “Occupy Denver” discussion groups. No one knows the shooter or has ever seen him. It is important to note that this tragedy is not a left/right issue, and attempts from the extreme right wing blogs to link this tragedy to Occupy are unfounded, irresponsible and irreverent to those who are suffering, or lost their lives, from this act of violence. Such insistence deflects from more pressing issues at this time: grieving for all of those people who have been affected. We believe that strength, compassion and non-violence are rooted in community. Today and for a long time in to the future, we will be working hard to build and expand ours. Our sympathy goes out to our brothers, sisters in Aurora, and all who are effected by this tragedy.
For up to date information on this event, the most reliable coverage seems to be coming from the Huffington Post
Occupy Denver’s “march against neo feudalism” was a smashing success. Despite torrential rainfall occupiers slowly gathered in La Alma Park as the rain gave way. La Alma’s radical history in the 60s found itself in good company with Occupiers, Anons, anti-capitalists, disenfranchised democrats and everyone else who wanted to thumb their nose at the empire. There was a brief conversation between the Denver Police and occupiers before the march expressing the wish of the DPD that O.D. obey traffic laws. The group consensus was to take the streets, and that is what O.D. did.
The march began by cutting through the soon to be demolished sections of the housing projects on Arapahoe and 9th. People cheered, honked and joined our procession as we wound our way through the neighborhoods surrounding the Santa Fe area. The theme of the night was largely anti-capitalist and Anti-repression chants, which are the hallmark of today’s feudalism.
As O.D. approached the Santa Fe Artwalk Occupiers picked up the 10 piece mobile drum band, “Pick Up America” at a live broadcast performance with Denver Open Media/ KGNU. O.D. marched into the lot where the live broadcast was happening to wait for the band. While occupiers gathered and watched the performance unconfirmed stories circulated of Denver Police prompting the managers of the property to file a complaint against us. It’ll be a cold day in guantanamo to expect the building that houses KGNU, DOM and broadcasts Freespeech TV, Link TV, & Democracy Now to press charges against O.D.
When Occupy took to the streets of the art walk, people once again cheered, honked and showed signs of support. The addition of the Pick-Up America troop took the march to a much higher and positive energy level. Occupiers stopped in front of the Democratic HQ, denounced the failed policies of Obama & the electoral politics which represent a mere simulation of governance. “Drones strikes are war crimes, give Obama prison time.”
Finally the march ended in front of the Atlzan theatre, where Occupiers announced a bloc dance party. More folks from the crowd joined the demonstration and the decision was made to disperse and let the drivers on Santa Fe pass by. Many occupiers disappeared quietly into the art walk crowd and others into the Atzlan Theatre for drinks. Occupiers were overwhelmed with the generosity of the Atzlan’s owners, who greeted us with free sandwiches. This is what solidarity looks like.
Occupy Denver would like to thank the local community, business owners, and art walkers for all their support.
After months of waiting and sifting through discovery, Mercer Lewis, 21, became the first Occupy Denver activist to take his case in front of a jury yesterday. After the trial, Lewis, who was found not guilty on the charge of obstructing a street or passageway, had a great deal to say about the jury’s decision and its implications for his peers. But first, he had a request. “First, have you seen the moon? Go outside and look at it.”
On November 12, police arrested Lewis for obstruction after an altercation that found protesters abandoning Civic Center Park to march down the 16th Street Mall. Approximately 100 protesters and 200 police officers took part in the night’s events, which ended with nineteen arrests. (Four of the arrestees have since pleaded guilty.) At around 6:45 p.m., police took Lewis into custody at the northwest corner of 14th and Larimer.
In the weeks since then, several cases have been scheduled to be the first to go to trial, only to be continued to later dates. Although Lewis is the first to go to court, he is not the first to have reached a result: At least twenty protesters have entered guilty pleas to a variety of charges beginning with the group’s first eviction on October 14. (He is also not the first to be free of charges: One case was mysteriously lost.)
Lewis, known to fellow occupiers as “Cottonwood,” was represented in court by Jessica Jackson, who took on his case pro bono as part of the Colorado Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild’s push to guarantee free legal service. In court yesterday, she stressed Lewis’s role as an individual who must be distinguished from the tide of the larger Occupy Wall Street movement.
In this video, Lewis can be seen performing at an Occupy Denver concert.
“They gave us a lot of information in the discovery, but there was only one video presented and we both used it,” Lewis says. The video captured Lewis speaking over police officers in an attempt to explain himself as they read his charges on camera. Although the prosecution’s discovery included extensive video resources from HALO cameras and footage of altercations, this evidence did not appear in court.
According to Lewis, however, anti-Occupy sentiments did. “They kept trying to bring up that Occupy is this bad movement of angry people with no direction, and they like to erect tents.,” Lewis says. “They kept saying ‘erect tents.’” The night of Lewis’s arrest, the evening’s original altercation began with the erection of three tents, which are not connected to his charge. Instead, city attorneys argued that Lewis ignored legal crosswalks and danced in front of oncoming traffic.
This is Lewis’s first criminal charge. During court, Lewis and fellow occupiers spent their quarter-hour wait for a verdict smoking tobacco in a circle outside, after which he says the declaration felt like a collective victory.
“That was one of the instances where you actually rely on your fellow people in this country, and I really wasn’t that surprised,” Lewis says. In the meantime, he is working toward the release of his first album, much of which is inspired by his time as an activist and songwriter at Occupy Denver. “I think what it means for the rest of us is that spring is here. It eventually has nothing to do with just me, but that this is the next phase in this movement.”
Occupy Denver would like to clarify mistaken information published in a recent Westword article and circulated on various internet blogs. The “F*ck the Police March” being planned for Saturday, February 25th, is not an Occupy Denver event. There is a very clear distinction between what is an Occupy Denver event and what is not. Only events that are ratified by our General Assembly are considered Occupy Denver events, and Occupy Denver’s General Assembly never decided on or even discussed supporting this action.
Chad Kautzer delivers the second part of his Occupy Economics series: Capitalism, Foreclosures and the Politics of Responsibility. This teach-in occurred on February 2, 2012 and was put on by the Occupy and Educate Denver committee.
What happened Monday night was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve spent the last three days trying to figure out how to get the words down on paper in a way which conveys the stunning savagery witnessed. A great plan failed to come to me, so I’m going to wing it.
There was an op-ed that needed doing, badly, tying together the themes of the homeless, human rights and the visceral response by the encampment to the eviction notices. Monday night I should have been securely tucked into my lovely warm hotpocket, because some of us are too old to be up past ten. Never let it be said procrastination is without benefits.
McDonald’s closes at 10:45PM, and I’d just posted the op-ed, tucked up the blog, heard its prayers and said good-night until it needed feeding again in the morning. I and several Occupy friends* headed back to the park, and though I slept on the Lincoln Park side of Broadway, it was my habit to check in on the Civic Center Park side and the Row before bed.
It couldn’t have been but a few minutes after we got back that I heard Daniel shouting. He came racing down 14th, and he was too out of breath to speak when he reached us.
“Cops,” he panted, pointing off south of the Capitol Building. “Riot cops. At firehouse.”
I’m still not sure who yelled it first. It might have been Daniel, it might have been Karyn – hell, I think it was me. Anyway, some noisy person threw back their head and shouted, “They’re coming!”
It would be nice to report that experienced protestors, savvy with the non-violence and veterans of many raids, reacted with cool calm. It would be nice, but it’d be a lie. We did what anyone would do upon hearing of an imminent attack by men with weapons who faced a stern paid vacation if they shot us dead where we stood. We fucking panicked. People scattered to wake up friends, to grab the bags they’d decided earlier were too valuable to lose to the police, to remind others of the non-violent tactics we’d brainstormed all day. There were shouts to remain calm. There were shouts that the police should do the anatomically impossible. One small young woman was crying as she snatched up the Christmas gifts she had bought for her children, to evacuate out as soon as supporters’ cars showed up. Getting those cars to us in time was my job.
I had the only smartphone on site, and I prayed to all the tech gods in existence as I twittered out the news. Y’all know the prayer. Say it with me now. “Signal, signal, go through, goddammit, where can I get signal?”
We got lucky. People were awake on Twitter and my phone began a running soundtrack of beeps – notifications that I was being re-tweeted. My job done, I ran across the street to grab my bug-out bag and, alas, the sack of clean laundry that had only hours before been dropped off. All my clean clothes, which are normally kept at a safe house, just happened to be at the encampment. I moved fast, but not fast enough. The first car evacuating gear left before I could get my sack of laundry to it. I handed my clothes off to a friend who was going back across the street, and I hied myself to the corner of Broadway and Colfax so I could keep sending out the call. We still had people to get in, gear and the Toys For Tots box to get out.
I looked down at my phone. Looked back up, and realized I was surrounded by riot police several deep. “Oh my good Lord.”
My elbow was grabbed, and a cop pulled me to the median. “Stay on the median in Colfax and enjoy the show,” he laughed.
Later, I found out my friends thought I’d been arrested then. The modus operandi is for the goon squad to round up anyone standing alone, and my fellow Occupiers saw me standing alone on the corner and riot cops surrounding me, and then I disappeared.
I wasn’t the only one caught outside the riot line. Kat and a couple others were wandering around the intersection with me. An ambulance pulled up and we panicked anew. They were shouting at the cops, I yelled a question on who was hurt. Flames and smoke were erupting from the camp, and screams and shouts tore the air. A portly blond police official in a felt overcoat was sporting a broad grin and chuckling at everyone as if to say, “Isn’t this great?”
I hiked up the hill and around Lincoln Park, trying to see where the ambulance had gone. Matt found me there.
“Fuckers.” He spat on the ground and picked up his skateboard. “You got any place to go tonight?”
“No. That’s my only home.” I waved a hand off in the direction of the camp burning in the darkness.
“Hey, assholes,” he yelled at the cops stationed outside Lincoln Park. “She’s been turned out of her only place to go. You feel awesome about that?”
One heavy-set cop shouted back that someone “over there” would find a place for anyone who needed it. On the other hand, when I approached the line I was threatened with arrest if they saw me again, and my name and birthday taken down. The next day Channel 7 News reported that police assisted any Occupy Denver protestors who were homeless. Personally, I’d like to know if that actually happened or if the corporate media just took everything the cops said on faith. I know I was offered only threats, and it would be the last time I – a middle-class woman from rural Texas, who had never been arrested or threatened with arrest in my life – voluntarily approached a cop.
Nick called me then, and we exchanged panicky “you okay?”s. He laughed with black humor about the ambulance. “That isn’t for citizens, it’s just in case one of the riot cops gets a hangnail beating peaceful protestors. They keep medical care away from us.” As the longest Occupier on the ground, veteran of five raids, he’s seen this too often not to be cynical about it. A laid-back beatnik whose conflict resolution skills and soothing voice of calm reason made him an asset to the Occupy Denver security team, it was jarring to hear him scream at cops through my phone. Six weeks I’d known him, and I’d rarely even seen him annoyed, let alone furious.
A car roared up, and the driver leaned over to open the passenger door. “Get in!”
I thought it was some random Denver resident trying to rescue Occupiers, but then I recognized Greg from the Non-Violence Committee. “They’re at the library. Meet me there!”
Greg roared off to park his car and I walked around to the library, where I found people who had been strangers to me once, and had become dear friends and family in just a few short weeks. We hugged everyone in sight, often in tears. We Tebow’ed the riot line. I got the news that Dana, a soft-spoken and reticent college girl, had been arrested for being in the park after park hours. Ben – Family of Love patriarch, de facto head of the 24/7 Committee and her boyfriend – was being physically restrained by Occupiers as he shouted himself hoarse at the animals responsible. Two reporters had been assaulted. And then there was more that I’d missed, such as everything that happened with Nicole. Fortunately, that’s what we have Youtube for.
Nicole is my height, which is nearly short enough to qualify for a diagnosis of dwarfism – five feet tall. She weighs less, perhaps ninety pounds soaking wet, whereas I’m a more well-fed 115. We’ve often thought her annoying, especially when she interrupts GA and demands cigarettes for Jesus, and we’ve made cracks about wanting to vote her off the island. She’s the “crazy Jesus lady”, and in the last few weeks she’s become our crazy Jesus lady. Family gets on your nerves a lot, it’s practically the point of having a family, and bigod, she’s family. She’s our lost little lamb at camp, and she repays us by being obnoxious and loving us all in turns.
Next time someone starts on how the police are heroes who are only there to help, remember that these Denver “heroes” assaulted a woman for annoying them. Not just a woman, but a small woman, who isn’t always right in the head, and is homeless. Fuck that noise. Not only are they not heroes, they’re not even men. Animals go after the small and weak; men are raised better than that. Note the cops laughing and smiling in the background of the video and viral photos? You have to wonder about their parents.
Our crazy Jesus lady was the hero of the night. She stood her ground, defended the camp and her friends. In protest at the behavior of the state-sanctioned goon squad, she threw her beloved Bible into the fire. With Nicole, the power of love can go no further.
We marched for hours, with Billy leading the way with his bongo. It was cold, and late. The sidewalks were clogged with slush and ice. And even though we were no longer anywhere near the park, the riot cops followed. They charged again and again, tried to kettle us. Always, the thing that struck me the most was the sound of their laughter. The cops were having the time of their life. They laughed, and they charged and then laughed some more, and they drove by grinning with excitement and yelling nasty things about Constitutional rights and how we needed the exercise anyway, and then they’d laugh and kettle us.
That is what bothered me the most. They stole my blankets and the tarps that keep the snow off me, but I can get new blankets and tarps. They stole food, but I can buy more food. No, what bothered me the most was that these thugs enjoyed it. They beat a woman, charged women, threw their weapons in the faces of the public… and they loved every minute of it. It was a horrifying thing to witness. I don’t even have the words for it.
The march was largely a blur of walking and exhaustion, punctuated by the laughter of rough men and brief excitement. After one attempted kettle, where I was shoved and which we avoided successfully, several Occupiers pushed dumpsters into the middle of the street to keep the cops from following us by goon truck. We spotted a dump truck full of our belongings on Colfax, and several people blocked the truck while others climbed into it to rescue our things. Technically, the police are supposed to make sure we can collect our personal belongings after the raid. They have never actually given anything back though, and considering they ran over our things with a bulldozer before using said bulldozer to toss our things into a dump truck, I doubt I’ll ever see any of my stuff again.
James, an eighteen year old boy who really took the Tebowing to heart, struck a pose again while we were near Colfax. The cops drew their batons and yelled, “Get him!” We screamed for him to run. I thought they were going to kill him – for mocking them. An eighteen year old kid. Nice kid, too.
He’s back safe at camp now, and the first thing I did after hugging him was Tebow him. He loved that, bless his pea-pickin’ heart.
I was evacuated by one of our supporters around the 16th St Mall, where we met up with a large portion of our group which had gotten separated from us. It must have been 3AM, and I was dead on my feet. The drive to her house was quiet, everyone in a state of shock. We kicked off our snowy wet gear just inside her door, and she brought out blankets and pillows and told us where to find fresh towels. I wanted to cry, but I was just too tired. So I made up a new bedroll on her living room carpet, and laughed when she fretted about the quality of her hospitality. I’m used to sleeping on frozen concrete. Carpet and central heating was the height of luxury.
Despite the most comfortable bed – a carpeted floor – I’d had in weeks, I didn’t sleep well. Too many nightmares of flames and laughing armed men. But I’ll tell you where I was bright and early the next morning. Back at my fucking Occupation.