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Occupy Denver: Belongings lost during protests treated as "found and abandoned property"

During the two days of police-attended demonstrations last weekend, the last thing most people at Occupy Denver were thinking about was their stuff. A week later, this has created confusion among many who lost their belongings, which were later collected by the Colorado State Patrol while officers worked to clean the area.

All in all, an estimated five truckloads of items were collected, and those items aren't yet ready to be returned to their owners, trooper Heather Cobler says.

Right now, the large mass of items belonging to occupiers has been moved to the Colorado State Patrol Academy in five trucks borrowed from the Department of Transportation. A handful of state troopers have been tasked with the tedious job of cataloging the entire collection, a process which is not expected to be completed until the end of next week, at the earliest. Right now, it's not the State Patrol's largest priority.

Protesters can pick up their tents -- eventually -- but they cannot put them up.
Protesters can pick up their tents -- eventually -- but they cannot put them up.
Kelsey Whipple

"A few troopers have been dedicated to cataloging all of it, but we have to make sure our main focus is still on protecting those people still using the property across from the Capitol," says Cobler, a public information officer for the State Patrol. "It's important to make sure that we are doing that first, and all of this comes after that."

According to State Patrol guidelines, all of the items collected are being treated as found and abandoned property, which comes with a six-month period to pick them up once they are ready. The rules on that are exact, but those that regulate how the items are redistributed are a little stickier. Protesters are tasked with proving, to the best of their ability, that the items are theirs, a process that usually involves providing ID -- although exceptions can be made under certain circumstances.

"ID will be required in most cases, but it depends on if their ID is inside of their property," Cobler says.

Many protester do not have state identification, which is likely to make it more difficult for them to reclaim their belongings. "They will need to provide a detailed description of the item so that we can try to detail what's theirs and what isn't, whether that includes a receipt or some other kind of proof," Cobler explains.

During the busy events of the demonstration Thursday night and Friday morning, the State Patrol distributed notices telling protesters they could call to inquire about their property beginning at noon this past Tuesday. Those who have called since have been told that the State Patrol will return their calls when the property is ready. A specific date is still indefinite.

"When they left, they were told to take the property with them, and that's why anything that is left is being treated as found and abandoned under our guidelines," Cobler says.

What about those who were arrested and couldn't bring their belongings? In Cobler's words, "They had the chance to leave and take their property with them before that happened."

More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: City Council's Susan Shepherd calls protests most important thing in country."


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