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Officers cleared Occupy Denver protesters from Capitol grounds

5:42 PM, Oct 14, 2011   |    comments
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The protesters set up dozens of tents on state land and many of them did not leave when the state's curfew went into effect at 11 p.m. Thursday night, despite an order from the governor and repeated requests from the Colorado State Patrol.

During a news conference on Thursday night, the State Patrol said the protesters could not stay on the land around the Capital, in Lincoln Park, and it said it would enforce the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The police action began at about 2:45 a.m. Friday.

Xcel Energy was on the scene, trying to cut power to the tent city. Officials say the protesters tapped into the electricity of park structures (like lighting fixtures, etc.) to run their equipment. Xcel is repairing the damage the protesters caused, structure by structure.

Of the Occupy Denver protesters, 23 were arrested. Twenty-one of those arrests were made by Colorado State Patrol. The charges against the protesters are for unlawful conduct. Two of the arrests were made by Denver Police. One of which was for an assault among people in crowd and one for impeding traffic.

All the protesters appeared in court on Friday afternoon. If convicted, they could each face three months to a year in jail.

9Wants to Know ran background checks on all 23 people who were arrested. Seven had prior arrests in Colorado, 16 have never been in trouble with Colorado law enforcement before.

LISTEN: HEAR THE VOICE OF THE OCCUPY DENVER PROTESTERS

State Patrol released a timeline of the events on Friday:

2:45 a.m. - State troopers began issuing orders by utilizing the PA system in CSP vehicles. The orders indicated that the unlawful group should remove themselves from Lincoln Park. These orders were issued a total of three times before teams were deployed.

3:08 a.m. - The CSP and Denver Police deployed Crowd Control Units in the area around Lincoln Park. The intersections of 14th Avenue and Lincoln Street were closed, as were Colfax Avenue and Broadway.

3:24 .a m. - After these teams were deployed a final warning was given to those that remained in the park unlawfully. This warning ordered people to disperse from Lincoln Park. The crowd control units began moving into Lincoln Park. The CSP removed unlawful demonstrators and structures.

6:30 a.m. - 21 arrests were made by the CSP in the next 15 minutes as they removed unlawful demonstrators that had created a human chain by linking arms.

7 a.m. - Another team was deployed to clean the park of all the debris and trash. Xcel began the work of repairing the power sources that were damaged as a result of use on part of the Occupy Denver Group.

The majority of the crowd dispersed by 9 a.m., according to CSP.

State Patrol says all items that were collected in the park were taken to the CSP Academy. People who want to collect them can call the Executive Security Dispatch Center after noon on Tuesday.

The following people were arrested for unlawful conduct on public property:

Heather Turner, 25
Caryn Sodaro, 46
Scianda Long, 24
Barbara Gawlowski, 32
Tiffany Rosengrant, 24
Aaron Stuckner, 23
Richard Klassen, 23
Matthew Carlton, 26
Elisha Capracota, 29
Christopher Burkhardt, 27
Vincent Lopez, 24
Justin Jeffries, 26
Matthew Velasquez, 25
Ryan Hartman, 32
Jordan Brody, 20
Cory Donahue, 28
Kerri Kellerman, 38
Charles Howe, 30
Patrick Marsden, 31
Jonathan Shepard, 27
Noah Levine, 19
Kristopher Norvell, 23

Aaron Petrovich, 40, was arrested for assault.

Gov. John Hickenlooper released a statement about the events on Friday afternoon:

"The First Amendment and the rights it guarantees for free speech and assembly are critical to our democracy. These rights are what set the United States above all other nations. We also have rules and laws that must be followed. Demonstrators in Lincoln Park were told every day this week they could not camp in the park. Yet each day the number of tents grew. Last night, and after multiple requests to follow the law, the Colorado State Patrol intervened. State troopers and Denver police demonstrated extreme restraint and professionalism as they encountered a very difficult situation. We owe the Colorado State Patrol a great deal of gratitude for their work. We also greatly appreciate the efforts by state employees from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Department of Personnel and Administration, as well as the support from the Denver Police Department and Xcel Energy. Some people are finding it easy today to criticize the state's response this week to what is a national movement in many cities across the country. There were numerous jurisdictional and legal issues to work through before a clear course of action could be set. For example, the state does not have a jail nor does the state have direct prosecutorial authority for park violations. We needed the cooperation of other entities and wanted to be very deliberate and thorough in our response. In the end, we worked with Occupy Denver to find a resolution that included constructive communication, many people voluntarily leaving the park, no violence and minimal arrests. We understand the frustration voiced by demonstrators about the economy, the loss of jobs and dysfunction in Washington. That's why we are intently focused on economic development in Colorado. Just this week the state saw two global companies make significant investments in Colorado that will add jobs and momentum to business development efforts happening throughout the state. This kind of economic news doesn't solve all of the issues raised by demonstrators this week, but it does show we all want the same thing: a healthy America where everyone can prosper."

"It's important for people to understand that free speech is not just welcomed, but encouraged at the Colorado Capitol whether elected officials agree with you or not. We simply ask you not break the law in relaying that message to us and the public," Colorado Senator Greg Brophy (R) said in a statement released to 9NEWS.

State Patrol released a statement around 11:20 p.m. on Thursday:

Pursuant to laws preventing unlawful conduct on state property, individuals illegally gathered at Veteran's Park have been ordered to vacate by 11 p.m. All tents and structures must be removed from the park, and all overnight activities must be discontinued.

"We have a deep respect for these individuals' First Amendment rights to assemble and to voice their viewpoints," said Chief James Wolfinbarger of the Colorado State Patrol. "We are happy to facilitate a peaceful assembly, provided it complies with all applicable laws and permit requirements."

"We have developed a positive relationship with Occupy Denver's leadership, and we have encouraged them to comply with the state's orders," Wolfinbarger said. "We appreciate their cooperation in seeking a peaceful resolution."

Additionally, the Colorado State Patrol's Executive Security Unit will work to provide individuals with an opportunity to express their views at the Capitol Complex while complying with local and state laws.

"The delicate balance of protecting constitutional rights while ensuring public safety is a core responsibility of any police organization," Wolfinbarger said. "However, we must consider the safety, health and well-being of all individuals who wish to use the park."

"Our goal is to give Occupy Denver and other protesters every opportunity to leave Veteran's Park in a peaceful manner," he concluded. "While it is our responsibility to enforce the law, we must continue to protect the safety of the public."

Just before 11 p.m., the protesters held a news conference where they listed their four areas they would like addressed. They included: The government controls the people, but people should control the government; fiscal accountability and transparency; address the economy immediately; and end campaign fraud. 

Gov. John Hickenlooper clearly stated on Thursday morning that the protesters had to pack up and leave on Thursday night. 

Hickenlooper says that although he agrees that these protesters have a right to speak their mind - their camping out overnight could be dangerous to the public. 

Mark Silverstein, the ACLU legal director, felt that the posting of tents could be a "symbolic speech that's protected by the First Amendment." 

"I'm not saying they have a legal right in court to keep those tents there," Silverstein went on to say. "We'd ask the question: Is there a way the government can accommodate the expression without having to shut it down, without having to clear people out of the park?"

Derrick Frazier recently joined the Occupy Denver movement because he liked the group's approach and what they stood for: make a change in our country and do it without violence. He believes that is why the group has not been removed from the Capitol Center complex.

"The police see that it is non-violent, it is not what they thought it would be," Frazier said. "People are good. That makes a difference a big difference."

The movement is part of what is now a series of protests that have stretched across the U.S. and around the world. One of the largest is in New York City, called Occupy Wall Street.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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