In the most violent Saturday in more than a month of Occupy Denver demonstrations and marches, Denver police fired mace and pepper balls at a crowd of protesters in Civic Center today and arrested 20 people.A Democrat congressman came in to try and control the mob and offer words of encouragement.
Two of the protesters were held for felony charges after police said an officer was knocked off his motorcycle and other officers were kicked, as they moved into the park to tear down illegal tents.
The first mid-afternoon confrontation had police and state troopers shoulder-to-shoulder pushing a group of marchers off the state Capitol steps, which is out-of-bounds to protesters without a permit. Some of the Occupy Denver sympathizers then raced to set up tents in Civic Center, where city officials have allowed ongoing food tables and sleeping bags but not sleeping structures.
Protesters there surged around about eight police officers. Other officers responding to calls for help fired the pepper bullets, which resemble paint balls. One protester filming the scene — one of hundreds of cameras documenting police activity — was knocked out of a tree in the melee.
Five people were arrested in the first conflict, before 3 p.m. Hundreds of officers and SWAT members converged on the park and Broadway was shut down for hours as police and protesters reached a tense stalemate.
About a dozen of the angriest marchers stood nose-to-nose with police and screamed profanity or anti-Wall Street slogans. Others tried to calm the situation, even while filming.
Just before 6 p.m., with ambulances waiting and police cruisers covering whole blocks around the park, officers donned gas masks and used megaphones to warn protesters the remaining tents were illegal. Wielding long batons, a few dozen officers pushed into the park and formed a circle around the tents.
During the mid-afternoon stalemate, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter waded into the crowd alone but for a bullhorn, urging protesters to remain as peaceful as they had been during his previous visit. A few in the crowd drowned his words, shouting that it was the cops in assault gear who needed to tone it down, not them.We can only hope.
"Obviously you're making an impression," said Perlmutter, the Seventh District Democrat. "You've got to de-escalate this thing."
"We want jobs!" a man shouted back. "Democrats won't get elected anymore!"