Police brutality today at Occupy Denver

  • Published on October 29th, 2011

denver police attack protesters with pepper spray and rubber bullets. KUSA-TV

Denver police moved in on Occupy Denver protesters today. They said they wanted to keep the demonstration peaceful, so they attacked them with pepper spray and rubber bullets, and arrested seven. In the picture above, the red item in the right-most officer’s hand is a large canister of pepper spray, which he is using to hose down the protesters directly in front of him (just out of frame).

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UPDATE: And that was it. The police moved out. What was the point of it all? To prevent the marchers from going up the steps, and then to destroy a few tents? We’ll continue to update as we get more information. See below: We’ve added a couple of videos.

UPDATE 7:00 PDT: As the standoff in Denver drags on, an update from Austin – While they marched earlier, police came in and confiscated tarps and sleeping bags. There was a large police presence at the GA, and now they are concerned that they are about to be evicted. But we have just been notified by Occupy Austin that they don’t believe arrests will happen tonight. (Livestream)

UPDATE 6:51 PDT: The police have finished taking out the trash, and the sanitation truck has pulled away. Now there appear to be more officers moving in. They are making sure everyone at the front has the phone number they need to call if they are arrested.

UPDATE 6:00 PDT: A trash truck has shown up and, under heavy guard by riot police, the waste technicians are tossing in what remains of the occupiers tents. Once the evil tents have safely defused, will the police stand down?

UPDATE 5:30 PDT: Police have put on gas masks and issued a 2 minute dispersal order. (Reminder: this started out as a permitted demonstration today). It looks like they’ve got every police car in Denver there, with lights flashing.

UPDATE: Got a livestream. Also here.  And here. It looks like it’s still a mess. 

Officers told KUSA-TV they knew the demonstrators intended to protest inside the Capitol, which they said is illegal.

Two thousand protesters marched through downtown Denver Saturday, but it wasn’t until a group tried to continue up the steps to the

occupy denver wounds from rubber bullets
wounds from rubber bullets

Capitol that the trouble started. They said they had a permit that allowed them to demonstrate on the steps, but they were held back by Denver police, and then the riot squad showed up.

The occupiers had set up a tent. Bad, bad, bad. That’s when the confrontation went bad.

The Occupiers report the police opened fire on the crowd with rubber bullets, and a number were injured.

According to Ryan H., 32, who was pepper-sprayed by police,

[I]n my honest opinion, the police were not at all provoked. They shot a [kid] in a tree!

The “kid” was a 21-year-old who was up in the tree videoing. He was injured by the bullets, which burn on impact.

KDVR reports:

“I saw the police become brutal for no reason,” said a woman who was at the protest. “I saw them choke a guy, I saw people get tear gassed who weren’t violent.”

…“We did have an officer who was pushed off his motorcycle and we had officers who were kicked,” said Denver Police Lieutenant Matt Murray. “When it escalated to that point we made an all-citywide call for every available officer, and that’s what you’re seeing now.”

UPDATE: And now we have video. You can see exactly what happened with the motorcycle: at 3:37 a pair of motorcycles rides directly into the crowd, shoving aside a number of demonstrators; at 3:55 one reacts with anger by shoving back against the bike. Never a good idea, but hardly an unprovoked attack by evil demonstrators against the innocent police. Also note at 3:57; the officer is clearly not shoved off the bike, but gets off the bike under full control, and chases down and tackles the guy who laid hands on the machine.


police brutality in denver
(Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

If they were worried about people storming the Capitol, it’s unclear why they macing people in the park. And if they were worried about being personally attacked, it’s unclear why they would be firing at people up in trees.

What it looks like is, in the name of “keeping the peace”, the police got in the face of what would otherwise have been a peaceful protest and, through the judicious use of over-reaction, helped turn it into a riot.

Check out the great photospread at the Denver Post.

This comes on the same day that Denver’s new Police Chief, Robert White, introduced himself to the community… and addressed questions of how he was going to deal with a police department that has been heavily criticized for use of excess force in recent years. “I think there are some changes that do need to occur,” he acknowledged.

Police said a number of people were treated for minor injuries but nobody was hospitalized.

UPDATE: Got a livestream  that’s still up. Other livestreams (down as of publication time): here here and here.

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About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.