Yesterday morning, 22 people woke up sweating against each other in the same Occupy Denver fort. The situation was better than that one time they forgot to build in ventilation and woke up without air, but it reinforced the need for a second entrance. In the week that Occupy Denver's first separate neighborhood has existed, it has faced constant rebuilding. If you're going to create an ideal protest community, why not make it perfect?
Right now, the room for improvement is getting smaller. Fort Love, also known as The Love Shack and TwentyFourtSeven, first appeared as a satellite occupation neighborhood of sorts one week ago; it was created as a way to separate comfortably from any tension in the main camp without removing ideologically from the rest of the group. Started by a group known as the Family of Love, the fort occupies the sidewalk immediately across from Civic Center Park, marking the first attempt to reclaim any area of Lincoln Park since occupiers were evicted from it three weeks ago.
"The other side is a little more hectic, a little more chaotic, and stuff was getting stolen," says recent Westword profile subject Kenny White, a member of both the occupation and its interior group, the Family of Love. "There was violence. We decided that it was best to add distance between ourselves and the movement, so we built a small community of our own over here."
The Family of Love began immediately after the group's second interaction with the police, when a handful of protesters (who joke that they're hippies) decided to create a group dedicated entirely to love. Aside from that idea, there are few other organizing principles. To join the family, one has only to "be cool, give good vibes and actually be here for the cause," White says. Its current ranks include about ten to fifteen people, though 22 squeezed into the fort last night, including guests.
"We don't consider ourselves separate from Occupy Denver, just a little group inside of it," White says. "It's like a vacation community from the rest of the movement. The full-blown activist hippie love is nice when you're community-based instead of society-based."
Once you crawl inside its single entrance, Fort Love is not unlike some cavern tucked inside Mary Poppins's bag. It's a very warm, slightly smelly optical illusion: Yesterday three people slept inside during the day while the rest removed what appeared to be hundreds of blankets and laid them outside to air. (Wednesday afternoon, two of its occupants hung out inside completely naked.) Its carefully constructed depths seem significantly larger on the inside than the outside.
"I wish I had a time-lapse series of photos of this place from when we first started building it, through all the times we recreated it until now," White says. "We try to make it better every day, whether that means the actual architecture or the decorations inside. The only problem is that it eats stuff: We can never find anything in here."
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The group has already attracted neighbors (hand-selected to be "the right kind," as in the real world) to its side of the street, and it hopes to add a communist kitchen soon. The current plan revolves around a system of tags volunteers would earn through daily tasks and return to receive meals.
Of course, last night's warning from police about removing encumbrances from sidewalks casts the future of Fort Love in doubt. But appropriately, this family is focusing on the positive.
"We do want to take over this side of the park for the occupation again eventually," White says. "We'll be back. It's almost a weeding-out process, and we want to find out who the real activists are."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver protesters want their dog-and-leader to meet with Governor Hickenlooper."