On Occupy Denver's first birthday, we count the ways it drove us crazy

When the sound and fury of Occupy Wall Street reached Denver one year ago this week, it became one of the city's largest stories — until, despite itself, it wasn't anymore. It's hard to pinpoint when, exactly, that moment happened; perhaps it was when a handful of protesters interrupted a vigil for the deceased homeless, or when, a few weeks later, they Tebowed on the streets outside a fiery Civic Center Park. The movement's loss of relevance might even have occurred when, less than six months into its history, Mayor Michael Hancock declared it to be so: The media stopped caring, he told Westword. We just don't do things like that in Denver.

But we do, actually. Or we did. Occupy Wall Street celebrated its one-year anniversary on September 17, while Occupy Denver's birthday occurs on September 23 — even though the camping ban that was passed in May has prevented anyone from occupying much of anything, overnight at least. There are many things about the movement that made us hope, but there are also many things that made us hate it. Here's a list of five.

They ruined sidewalk camping

Or at least they did until the city council made it illegal for anyone to do so again. For weeks on end, through rain and snow and the occasional weather-induced hospital trip, devotees of the political movement snacked, snoozed and snored in a public park. When they were kicked out of that spot, the state-monitored Lincoln Park, they moved across Broadway to Civic Center Park, where they proceeded to trash the place to the point that it required repairs; this was shortly after taxpayers voted to spend millions of dollars to beautify the spot. Their most recent overnight occupation was on the sidewalk outside of Sports Authority during Sniagrab.

They yelled a lot

When they yelled at Fox 31 political reporter Eli Stokols, he actually yelled back, but he was the only public figure to have dished it as well as the occupiers served it. Occupiers shouted at passersby, at police and at politicians. They interrupted vigils and Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless, and they made several city council members red in the face when they shouted "Shame!" during hours-long debates over the urban-camping ban. They even shouted with silence: Some Occupiers taped dollar bills over their mouths in a symbolic protest over the financial disparity they saw between lawmakers and those most affected by the young law. They never stopped shouting. So most of the city stopped listening.

They elected a dog

Last year, Occupy elected Shelby the dog as the leader of their leaderless movement, a concept that was a mixed bag of awesome and embarrassing — and worthy of mentions on Gawker, NPR and The Rachel Maddow Show. And although Shelby is, by all accounts, a friendly, intelligent and well-mannered border collie mix, she and her equally friendly owner are actually from Boulder, which doesn't give them quite enough power to reign over Denver. Like Occupy Denver, Shelby's bark was worse than her bite.

They lit our park on fire

On December 20, Civic Center Park was temporarily ablaze during a demonstration between police and protesters. And while both sides rarely maintained their cool, this time a small handful of protesters decided to make it very, very hot — by lighting the Occupation's temporary, and quite flammable, cardboard shelters on fire. This is why you don't have nice things, Occupy Denver.

Nut taps

Infamous protester Corey Donahue may or may not have jokingly tapped the nuts of a newspaper photographer, but the laugh-leaning headlines he created also distracted people from the Occupation's larger issues — financial disparity, homelessness, etc. — and became a recurring problem. They also created a misdemeanor assault charge that could get Donahue up to eighteen months in jail.

 
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33 comments
alphaokat1
alphaokat1

it was never a movement,only a big homeless party....perhaps try again,with a different name,more revolution!

bugsycook
bugsycook

Whoever wrote this nailed it with a laser beam. I was involved with Occupy in the beginning but I eventual left because, as they would say, the movement got co-opted, it was co-opted by immature, overly aggressive twenty-something idiots in black bandanas whose sole mission became  fighting with the cops.  Their whole mantra now is FTP. FTP this, FTP that, personally I do not have a problem with the police because they are part of the 99%. Remember the 99%? Wall Street? That is what it was supposed to be about. When I was down there I went out of my way to try and build a good rapport with the police. Did some of them respond in kind? Yes. Did some of them remain unfriendly? Yes, but at least things were civil.

I wanted to go with the peaceful, non-aggressive, non-violent approach but if you suggested that to them they told you you were uninformed and that type of approach never worked. Ironically they gave you the Civil Rights struggle as an example? I believe it was Dr. Martin Luther King’s method that worked and not the method of the Black Panthers or the Weather Underground. Last November when the sh*t hit the fan down at Civic Center Park I was right there under the trees when it all went down. They will say all the blame was on the police, but I saw, in my opinion, otherwise. I saw plenty of water bottles being thrown and police motorcycles being kicked and pushed over.  That is the day the rational adults-in-the-room left and have not returned. 

All that is left now is the D.A.B.C., the Denver Anarchist Black Cross.  Just go to the Occupy Denver Facebook page and then the Denver Anarchist Black Cross Facebook page and match up the faces to the names and voila that is what’s left of Occupy Denver.  Go to the Occupy Denver web page, click on committees, then click on legal support and there you can see it’s the same losers time and time again being arrested  over and over needing your donations for bail money. They think hiding their faces behind bandanas is really working, too late; we already know who they all are.

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator topcommentereditor

I'd like to publish some of these comments in our print edition, where the story appeared, ideally with the author's full name and town. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com. (And comments responding to comments really won't work -- but Tim07, Penny and mraufklarung, yours would be perfect.) Or feel free to send something else I can use as a letter to the editor.

 

 

tim07
tim07

That fire was the coolest thing that happened in denver this year, period.  

 

so occupy is dead, because mayor hancock and the westword say it is so!  

 

why the westword focused so much of its coverage around corey donahue remains a myth to us all.  he was not in solidarity with the organizers of the movement, i could go on but i won't.    so like... nut taps?  really?  i dont think anyone else even covered that article.  maybe the westword should reflect on how much coverage it gave to corey donahue, and if THAT hurt our movement?

 

it is a mystery to me that westword has never done any coverage of the teach ins that occupy has been doing, the foreclosure resistance, the fact that even though we are "dead" we still can pull hundreds to events to march for solidarity for quebec students or anaheim.  is anyone else in this city even trying to show solidarity with labor & social movements happening around the world?

 

and you blame occupy denver for ruining sidewalk camping?  is that victim blaming?  is that wreckless?  is it true?   lets be honest, for a split second....  90% of the people who were "sidewalk" camping were straight up homeless people, so you're applauding the city on this and blaming occupy denver?  blame hancock and the city council for NOT GIVING A SHIT about putting peoples lives in jeopardy.  we continue to do feed ins in the park, a year later, we have become real advocates for that community.   

 

i think it is shameful that the most negative piece that came out about occupy denver for S17 was in the westword.   you make it seem like its all our fault, and its not, its a national trend, its the ebb and flow of social movements, fads if you will, and a symbol of what can happen to a great idea if it is violently repressed by the state and media.   yes we have made mistakes, most of us are first time activists and this is a giant learning experience.  

 

 

 

pennymcclure
pennymcclure

Occupy Denver is alive and well.  Though the camping ban ended the physical occupation, the movement is still living, breathing, changing, growing.  This article illustrates the kind of perspective that holds us back as human beings and keeps us trapped in the sickness of the dominant system--the perspective that emanates from ego, and is unable to see beyond the limits of its own comfort. Sure, Occupy Denver has made some mistakes.  We're only human.  But we're willing to take risks and to live with some discomfort in order to discover what happens when we decide to stand up for ourselves and stand up for each other.  

CloudlessRain
CloudlessRain

Shelby continues to lead to this day.  She is running for president.

 www.shelbylovesamerica.org

mraufklarung
mraufklarung

This is an incredibly vacuous editorial - a kind of smirking nod to other liberals who think politics is merely voting and grassroots activists are never effective. The author has clearly never participated in practical politics and thinks that talking about this shit is just like doing it. I also love how the author criticizes Occupy activities for distracting "people from the Occupation's larger issues — financial disparity, homelessness, etc", yet the entire piece is precisely that: a distraction. Occupy has saved people in foreclosure, fought like hell for the basic survival of the homeless against the monied front of the Downtown Denver Partnership, and called out the perpetrators of our financial crisis and economic recession, while folks like this author sat it out or tweeted some snarky remarks. This is another way of saying that the author and what they write is completely irrelevant. It does no more than satisfy their own smugness, which distracts them from the fact that neither they nor those for whom they write, are actually doing anything about "financial disparity, homelessness, etc."

mraufklarung
mraufklarung

 @bugsycook

 Just out of curiousity, if you don't mind me asking, what are you politically up to now? Are you working with other organizations on related issues (e.g. economic, political, and racial justice) or are you not politically active anymore? I ask, because your critique is about one part of Occupy Denver (and many have shared your critique), but tents and FTP marches aren't all of Occupy. I guess I'm wondering if you still think Wall Street crime, or capitalism in general, is a problem and are organizing against it, but just not with Occupy. (I'm honestly asking, but understand if you don't want to respond)

Yessir
Yessir

 @tim07 A national trend?  It's over.  I think there are some tree mosses and rare gnats in Civic Center Park that need saving.

jobarrett219
jobarrett219

 @pennymcclure You people do more harm than good !!  Get a job and vote ... you cost millions when our cities do not have millions to spend !!  You call yourself patriots ??  NOT !!

Yessir
Yessir

 @mraufklarung Occupy Denver was a fad, at best.  Guess you'll have to ride your single-gear back to City o' City and read obscure conspiracy theories on your Mac while sipping organic chai in your ironic cardigan and your scruffy face pubes.  Douche.

mraufklarung
mraufklarung

 @Yessir  @tim07

 So a friend of mine with resources I lack tells me that our naysayer friend, Yessir, is employed by the PR firm Linhart for pro-corporate (and obviously anti-activist) blogging. That is to say, he gets paid--by a local PR firm--to troll with a pro-corporate, anti-democratic message. Lovely, no? Here is the PR firm's website: http://www.linhartpr.com/blog/

mraufklarung
mraufklarung

 @Yessir This is the kind of vacuous thought demonstrated in the article. Clearly, Yessir is not involved in practical politics (besides making snide comments on blogs and websites), does not have any analysis of our economic recession, financial crisis, institutional failures, etc., and believes that his or her apathy is somehow a neutral position rather than a contributing factor to our problems. Yessir can clear his or her mind of these concerns, and absolve his or herself of the guilt they feel for doing nothing (and they do feel this guilt - it fuels their childlike judgement of others) by constructing a mythical image of an individual involved in Occupy and then dismiss them. This is political psychology 101, yet people like Yessir try to present themselves as so self-assured about their judgements (precisely because their so unsure of their own position) that we can see right through them. You're like an empty glass - we can right into the emptiness, Yessir. When you actually have a productive analysis of our economic and political problems and are willing to get off your ass and do something about those problems, we'll be waiting for you. And we won't even hold your earlier childlike comments against you.

Yessir
Yessir

 @mraufklarung  @tim07 Do you have any idea how fucking crazy you are?  Your friend must be imaginary and comes and goes, depending on whether you've remembered your daily medication.  I clicked on your link.  Never been to that site before, but nice try.  This is why your movement is dwindling.  You're like Helen Keller swinging away in front of a t-ball stand.

pennymcclure
pennymcclure

 @Yessir  @jobarrett219  @pennymcclure I've always been poor, but I've got a bachelor's degree, and a job, and I vote, just like many others who participate in the movement.  I certainly don't call myself a patriot.  America was built on a foundation of brutal colonization, and it continues that violent legacy today.  I'm a just a person.  I'm for people.  I'm for basic human rights for all people.  

 

Unfortunately, working and voting are not sufficient ways of securing these basic human rights for all.  I have a job, and an education, and enough to eat every day, but not all of my friends and neighbors and sisters and brothers do.  I'm concerned about them, too.  Because we are all connected.  I can't be satisfied that I have enough while others do not.  I can't sit back and watch the system continue to brutalize people.  I'm compelled to stand up and do what I can.  This is not a fight that can be won overnight, or one that can produce immediate, quantifiable results.  It's little changes happening in everyday moments.  It's an ongoing struggle that will take new forms and shapes.  The most important part of that struggle is happening right now, inside you.  You can choose selfishness and condemnation and fear, or you can choose love.     

mraufklarung
mraufklarung

 @Yessir  @tim07

So a friend of mine with resources I lack tells me that our naysayer friend, Yessir, is employed by the PR firm Linhart for pro-corporate (and obviously anti-activist) blogging. That is to say, he gets paid--by a local PR firm--to troll with a pro-corporate, anti-democratic message. Lovely, no? Here is the PR firm's website: http://www.linhartpr.com/blog/

tim07
tim07

 @Yessir its easy to fight your way out of a wet paper bag.  its harder to fight through concrete, bricks and empire. 

Yessir
Yessir

 @tim07  Sounds like you'll be fighting your way out of a wet paper bag for the rest of your life.  Good luck with that.

tim07
tim07

 @Yessir  @jobarrett219  @pennymcclure been there, done that.  that "love it or leave it" shit dont fly.  this is where i was born, this is where i will fight to create the world i want to see.  

tim07
tim07

 @Yessir  @jobarrett219  @pennymcclure  oh... and who said we were "patriots?"  this country is an abomonation and i'd sooner see it dismantled then call myself a patriot.

tim07
tim07

 @Yessir  @jobarrett219  @pennymcclurei know everyone involved with occupy denver.  there isn't a single person there living off a trust fund, honestly.  a couple are living off college loans, but most are just working poor.

shitchin
shitchin

 @Yessir Careful you don't pat yourself on the back too hard there buddy.  That backbone of yours seems like its only strong enough for anonymous internet rants.  So you pity the homeless and deign to toss them your alms and the jeans you got too fat for?  Want a cookie?  Take your pecan-sized balls off the keyboard and get back to work, I think your boss is coming.

Yessir
Yessir

 @shitchin Better quarters to the homeless than crabs to street performers.

Yessir
Yessir

 @mraufklarung  Yeah, yeah, yeah... Proletariat this and obfuscate that.  Adjunctification unequivocally my balls on your chin.  What, are you jealous that I actually helped people while you just took up space and wasted money on a cause nobody really cares about enough to pursue longer than six months?  Sounds like serious mismanagement of resources.  You're not an activist just because you read some Ayn Rand in high school.  You're not a revolutionary just because you took a break from dumpster-diving behind the DU dorms to go to a few meetings.  If you were for real, you would have made it work.  It didn't work.  Instead, your movement is fading away into obscurity.  Where are the people?  Those with something worth living for have moved on.  Where is your support? Where are your benchmarks for success?  You annoyed some people just long enough to delay a foreclosure or two?  Wow!  I'm in freaking awe!  Here's wishing you the best of luck on your next wasted effort. 

shitchin
shitchin

 @Yessir  WOW you give quarters to homeless people?  What a revolutionary you must be.  I bet you're a cop.

mraufklarung
mraufklarung

 @Yessir Yessir, no one reading these posts would ever seriously believe that a mean-spirited person like yourself would ever actually do anything for those in need (if you did, we would have met during our campaign against the criminalization of homelessness in Denver). And only a mind like your own could conclude that political activists don't care about those marginalized or suffering and actually dedicate time and money to help. We all know that you don't actually do anything for your community and since you're obsessed with this hipster thing (news flash: Denver hipsters generally aren't politically active) I'm assuming you have some insecurity issues related to your appearance. Perhaps it 's time for you to pack it up and go home. Unless, of course, you're one of those bloggers paid by Wall Street PR firms to post nonsense on these types of sites. Am I getting close?

Yessir
Yessir

 @mraufklarung  u mad bro?  I think there's a sale on corduroy at the Buffalo Exchange.  You can wear them during your interpretive dance sessions with the DABC idiots.  In the time it takes you to write your shallow, go-nowhere ideals on these blogs, you could be giving homeless people quarters, donating clothes, or volunteering at the Denver Mission and actually making a difference in this world like this "empty glass" does.  Just a thought.  Smoking pot, littering, and stinking up the park hasn't turned the recession around, has it?  Didn't think so.  Come on, throw some other polysyllabic words out there.  See if anything changes (it won't). 

 
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