Even as the last chapter of the three-year-old protests during the Democratic National Convention was closed in federal court, Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor John Hickenlooper were grappling with the challenge of dealing with the the Occupy Denver protesters they can see out their office windows. And yesterday, they issued a joint -- but brief -- statement.
The statement reads:
The Occupy Denver protesters are on State property. The State and City are working together to find a solution that balances Occupy Denver's First Amendment rights with growing concerns around public safety and public health in violation of city ordinance and state law.
This corner of Denver, between the Capitol and City Hall, with Civic Center Park stretching between, has always been a community gathering place -- although often attracting the kind of community that the city and state's image-boosters aren't looking for. Dealing with the homeless who hang out around the park, and the people who prey on the homeless who hang out around the park, has been one of Occupy Denver's major challenges.
So has the lack of facilities: There are no public bathrooms in Civic Center, for safety reasons, and the Porta-potties of the summer festivals are long gone (although I did spy one by the McNichols building yesterday). Occupy Denver has come up with its own security system, its own kitchen, its own crews for trash. But so far, it has not come up with its own bathrooms -- and although I asked both the governor's office and mayor's offices about the possibilities of bringing in a couple of Porta-potties while they work the rest of this out, I have yet to hear back on that.
Sanitation problems have the potential for turning this critical mass of protesters into a critical mess.
And if the camp is broken up, where do the protesters go? As documented in a video from yesterday (to watch it, click here) , law enforcement officers -- both with the Colorado State Patrol, which oversees this patch of ground, and the Denver Police Department -- have been very circumspect. But if that changes?
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Yesterday, the protesters delivered a letter to the governor, asking permission to stay. Hickenlooper has said there's no jail to hold these protesters. That reminded us to also ask about the status of "Gitmo on the Platte," a holding area set up to contain DNC protesters, which included bathroom facilities. We outed that location back in August 2008; here's our report and a slide show.
In the meantime, as Representative Wes McKinley, who's camped out with the protesters, reminds us: Democracy is not tidy.
More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Occupy Denver endorses Colorado American Indian Movement's indigenous proposal."