Police Clear 'Occupy Denver' Protesters, Arrest 23

Officials Say Veteran's Park Closed From 11 P.M. To 5 A.M.

Under the governor's orders, state troopers in riot gear cleared Veteran's Park across from the state Capitol on Friday morning, arresting dozens of protesters.

At 6:28 a.m., the troopers began moving the protesters from the park. By 6:45 a.m., the park was mostly cleared. At 7 a.m. a line of troopers was standing on Broadway to prevent the protesters from going back into the park or the street.

Video from Airtracker 7 and 7NEWS crews on the ground showed several protesters being taken into custody. Denver Police said 23 people were arrested.

"Several protestors were arrested this morning as a result of criminal misconduct," Colorado State Patrol Col. James Wolfinbarger tweeted.

One protester was treated for a minor injury, Denver police said.

Occupy Denver told 7NEWS that protesters were cuffed using plastic zip-ties. The group also said some protesters were carried away by troopers.

CSP set up a temporary center between the Art Museum and the Denver Public Library to process the people arrested.

By Friday afternoon, all of the protesters released on personal recognizance bonds.

At 7:30 a.m., 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart said about 40 protesters remained in the park area. Stewart saw officers with tear gas canisters, but said the tear gas was never used.

Occupy Denver organizers told 7NEWS that if they can't remain in the Capitol area, they will find another location in Denver.

One protester told 7NEWS anchor Bertha Lynn, "Auraria Campus -- Monday."

City and state crews are cleaning up trash and other items left in the park.

Friday's Police Action

Authorities gave protesters an 11 p.m. deadline to clear the park. Authorities hoped the protesters would leave on their own, but protesters stayed.

At 3:15 a.m. the state patrol started making announcements that the park was closed indefinitely.

Many protesters began standing in a circle with their arms locked.

At 4:45 a.m., Occupy Denver tweeted, "150-250 people remain at the protest currently. Thank you for all your dedication and hard work."

"The Colorado State Patrol is pleased with the progress thus far on the operation to clear Veteran's Park," officials said in a statement issued at 4:58 a.m. "Due to clean-up work that will continue for several hours, Governor Hickenlooper has issued an Executive Order to close Veteran's Park until further notice."

Occupy Denver tweeted, "State Patrol says park closed indefinitely. We can continue from the sidewalks."

Another tweet said, "The sidewalks are 'real' public grounds, and they should not be able to remove us from them."

However, at 5:45 a.m., officials told the protesters to remove their tents and other structures from the sidewalks.

Some streets around the park were closed or partially closed as a line of officers moved into the encampment. The streets were mostly reopened by 8:30 a.m.

Protestors Speak With 7NEWS After Court Appearances

Following their court appearances, two protestors spoke with 7NEWS.

"I came down, not with the intention of getting arrested, but with the intention of protesting," said Matthew Carlton. "They gave us warnings, we did not concede to them."

Carlton hinted he would continue to break the law if necessary.

"It's a public forum. It's a public space and we're going to occupy it as long as we legally and maybe, illegally, can," said Carlton. "If this was all they could do to me for that -- I mean -- it's a slap on the wrist. They're just trying to get the traffic back in order. They're trying to get the park working like they think it should be."

It was clear not all protestors were on the streets speaking out against Wall Street greed.

"I was just driving by and I was like, 'Is that really what's going down?' People fighting for our First Amendment?" said Aaron Stuckner. "All we're doing is hanging out. You can't stop us from doing that."

Governor Updated Overnight Via Text Message

At a Friday afternoon news conference, Gov. John Hickenlooper said his staff kept him updated about the law enforcement efforts by text message.

"2:30 (a.m.): crowd down to 150 or less. Ready to issue order. Final order given to leave," said Hickenlooper. "4:28 (a.m.): still no arrests or violence."

On Friday night, more than a dozen state trooper vehicles were parked at the entrances to Veterans Park.

"I don't think we'll be posting more than one or two people there, but I think we are going to have a zero tolerance for sleeping there," said Hickenlooper Friday afternoon.

7NEWS wanted to know if the Occupy Denver message was the reason the tent city was uprooted.

"I can honestly say that no matter what group was down there or what they were saying, we would have responded exactly the same way. We would have tried for a number of days to get them to leave peacefully and then after doing that for three or four days, we would have helped them leave peacefully," said Hickenlooper. "I believe we were the first city to act on it and I'm going to guess that we're going to be a model for other cities that want to follow."

Hickenlooper Statement On Arrests

Hickenlooper released a statement on Monday afternoon about the events in Lincoln Park:

“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.”

Officials Order Protesters Out Overnight

"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.," the State Patrol said in a statement on Thursday night. "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 Colorado State Patrol Col. James Wolfinbarger. "We are happy to facilitate a peaceful assembly, provided it complies with all applicable laws and permit requirements."

"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.”

Protesters say it's their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble there.

On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper said the group could gather at the park between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., but they cannot camp in the park in front of the Capitol.

"We've never let the homeless camp in parks; we don't see how we can let other groups camp in parks," Hickenlooper said.

State law states they cannot camp, sleep, litter, loiter, create open fires, and create unsanitary conditions on state land, said Attorney General John Suthers.

The Occupy Denver movement, which started about two weeks ago, had grown to nearly 60 tents by Thursday.

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