Corey Donahue has become a grinning face of the Occupy Denver movement, but this also makes him somewhat of a scapegoat. The activist for both marijuana and the occupation is politically fearless in a way that verges on foolhardy roughly as often as it's impressive.
This weekend, it ended in a charge of unlawful sexual contact.
Donahue ended Saturday night's second altercation between the police and Occupy Denver as the 25th protester to be arrested, this time with three new charges: disturbing the peace, petty theft and unlawful sexual contact. The last of these, however, is the strangest. Donahue's charge comes as a direct result of what has been reported as him groping a television news photographer -- but he has his own side of the story:
"It was just a bad nut-tap joke gone wrong," a newly released (again) Donahue told Westword yesterday.
At that time, he appeared elated, almost better for the wear, although his second stint in a holding cell in the space of two days came with a misplaced jacket and a new round of arrest photos circling the Internet. "I never groped that photographer," he adds.
Donahue interacts with the police at Saturday night's demonstration.
Photo by Britt Chester
Donahue has faced increasing attention because he is seen as a leader of the leaderless movement. In the time it took him to tell his story, three people approached him with a high-five or a genitals joke. One shout of "What's up, rock star?" earned a grin.
"The cop was being very hostile, and there were cameras all around us all the time," Donahue said. "In the Thunderdome here, dick jokes and that kind of thing are the norm, and we all embrace it and have fun. I feigned a nut tap at the photographer, and I was accused of groping him. If you ask anyone who was around me, they will tell you that they never saw me do that -- because it didn't happen."
Donahue is one of four who were also arrested during the occupation's first altercation, for which he was held on counts of unlawful conduct on state property and resisting arrest. Although he escaped arrest during the contentious hour and a half when most of the other 25 were removed from the scene, he was approached and taken in during the occupation's resulting march on the 16th Street Mall.
"Everyone needs a scapegoat," Donahue says. "It's the cops' idea that the movement has a leader, that if I'm in jail nobody's going to be out here doing anything important. Well, that's wrong to begin with, and I was still working on the occupation from jail."
The recent petty theft charge comes as a direct result of Donahue's role in Crazy For Justice, a marijuana advocacy group. In August, Donahue requested documents from the Marijuana Enforcement Division but left the MED's office without paying for them. A glitch In his paperwork meant Donahue was arrested on Friday under an incorrectly spelled version of his last name, but he was unable to escape the old warrant the next day.
"I'm just trying to get the nickname 'The Colorado Kid,'" he jokes. But another volunteer has a better suggestion: The Nutcracker Prince.
As with the first round of arrests, the Denver chapter of the Anarchist Black Cross worked like a well-oiled machine to raise funds and organize co-signatures to get the occupation protesters released from jail. Although Donahue maintains his innocence and has no plans to quiet his passion for the movement, he also has no plans to be arrested again in the near future. After all, any further arrest will be accompanied by a felony charge.
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"Instead of facing the world's issues, let's all just say I grabbed some dude's balls," he says. "That will feed your family, right? The system is worse than anything I could possibly do, and we need to keep getting arrested until we bankrupt it. Then we'll rebuild it.
"I just can't be one of the people getting arrested this time."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver has a day of peace -- for now (PHOTOS)."