The past two weeks have been a strange time in the lifespan of Occupy Denver. The absence of regular police altercations opens a different arena of political potential, and a strict legal response to donations and support has discouraged both while decreasing numbers. Some media outlets suggest giving up. But the occupiers have a different plan: Attempting to recall Mayor Michael Hancock.
The plan is a tough one -- and admittedly a little far-fetched -- but the group's legal team began the initial steps last week with a visit to the Denver Elections Division. In light of Occupy Denver's history of skirmishes with the police and the consistent decision to ban tents in Civic Center Park despite the group's cold-weather hospitalizations, the occupation's political focus is launched firmly at the figure it sees as responsible for these actions.
Supporters of the Thunderdome protest Mayor Hancock and Governor Hickenlooper outside the Denver Rescue Mission the day before Thanksgiving.
"He's been irresponsible with city money," says Rob Piper, a member of Occupy Denver's legal team. "His job is to protect citizens, not to injure and silence them, so we're pretty disappointed on both counts."
The guidelines toward achieving a recall election are strictly laid out in Denver's city charter. The group can successfully initiate the process at any point within a period that begins six months after the mayor's election and ends one year before the next election: roughly December 7, 2011 through May of 2013. The protocol begins with a petition, which must include a notarized affidavit signed by five registered Denver voters.
One of those signatures will be that of Occupy Denver protester Patricia Hughes, a former Westword profile subject who sees the plan as a symbolic notice to Denver's city government. "I know it sounds like a lot, but I think we can do it," Hughes says. "And even if we are unsuccessful, our message will come across regardless."
Once the petition, which must clearly state what the group hopes to accomplish, is turned in to the Elections Division, the department has 72 hours to review it. "We don't get into whatever the group thinks the grounds are or anything like that," says Alton Dillard, spokesman for the Denver Elections Division. "We just make sure it passes the structure in our Denver city charter. If we deny it, they will be able to resubmit it with whatever corrections we deem necessary."
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It should be noted that no successful attempts at a recall election at this level in Denver haven taken place during the recent past. If the group's petition is accepted, Occupy Denver will have ninety days to gather signatures equal to 25 percent of the number who voted in his election. With 122,583 votes cast, that means the group needs a minimum of 30,646 signatures in support of their petition to establish a recall mayoral election -- and they must be collected within ninety days.
Because the Occupy Denver general assembly voted in support of this plan, the most likely means of the future signature drive will be through Occupy volunteers. "Looking at the timing, the question could appear on the June primary ballot if they are successful," Dillard says. "It would essentially go to the next citywide election available."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: Charge against plaintiff in David Lane lawsuit dropped days before court date."