This afternoon was a busy one for a handful of Occupy Denver participants, eleven of whom took the capitol by surprise around 11:30 a.m. The group, organized by Thunderdome protester Corey Donahue, planned to advance the cause by occupying the governor's office, and that plan lasted for about three and a half hours (three longer than even the occupiers expected). Around 3 p.m., they were escorted out of the building by state patrol, with the exception of Donahue, who was arrested.
Donahue, who has also been arrested twice in relation to the occupation and will face a felony for any other related arrests, was taken in on a city charge that he failed to appear in court for a traffic violation on November 4, though he said he was unaware of the situation. When Donahue was threatened with arrest, group member and former Westword profile subject Chad Duffy took hold of Donahue's phone during an attempt to call his lawyer, but Donahue was eventually removed from the building.
The plan began early in the morning as a means of advancing the occupation's cause in the wake of one of its most peaceful weeks to date. Like a protest Pied Piper, Donahue collected a small but devoted group of frequent occupiers to take to the Capitol building to make a statement and further the group's agenda. The time has come for increased action, Donahue says.
"People are just living like dogs out here, eating and sleeping and not doing much else," Donahue says. "This isn't why we're here, and it's not helping the cause at all. We need to tear things down and start over again -- that's what it takes -- and we have to stay active throughout the entire movement.
"So we're going to occupy the governor's office."
The brief march across the street ended with an early setback for the group when one of its members was refused entry to the building because of the medical marijuana on his person, though he offered his medical card as proof of its legitimacy. Donahue, an outspoken marijuana activist, took offense to the action and challenged its constitutional legitimacy in front of state patrol officers running security for the building. Officer C.J. Valdez responded by warning Donahue and the rest of the group to calm down or be forced to leave the premises. The debate drew immediate and lasting attention from the troopers, who continued to monitor the group as it climbed the stairs, followed Donahue directly into the governor's office and filled every one of its lobby's available seats, in addition to two spots on the floor.
Upon asking to see Governor John Hickenlooper, the group was told that he was unavailable by the politician's two representatives, frazzled but amused at their desks in front of the occupiers. "We're not leaving until we see him," Donahue responded.
Although told their efforts would be in vain today, the group continued to occupy the office and spent their time perusing its reading materials and filling out an official request for its leader (a newly elected Border collie/cattle dog mix named Shelby) to meet the governor in the future. Although the request wasn't the original purpose of the visit, it lists Shelby's last name as "the dog," cites her address as that of Civic Center Park and provides a fellow occupier's contact information in her stead. (Shelby's concerns with the nation's politics, as dictated by her human constituents, are on view below this article.)
In the meantime, Hickenlooper's representatives repeatedly asked the gathering to be quiet while the governor attended a meeting, and the group obeyed while continuing to protest in favor of meeting Hickenlooper. "Flat out: You're not getting an appointment to meet the governor today," they were told, while another Capitol employee met with security outside the office to warn officers about the group.
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"Your whole life is decided behind that door," Donahue told his fellow occupiers, pointing at the one behind which Hickenlooper's representatives continued to disappear. "At least it's a lot warmer in here than it is outside, where nothing is getting done at all. We'll occupy here today until they kick us out, and then we'll come back out of the cold again tomorrow. I want to talk to the governor."
Although that plan might still be in place, its first day ended early when security put a collective foot down against the protesters' continued presence in the office around 3 p.m. The group, which had rotated a few members in and out by that point, was escorted out by the state patrol during Donahue's arrest. "We stalled as long as we could in his office, but they made us leave," Duffy says. "I went outside on the phone with Corey's lawyer, and when I turned around, the rest of them had been kicked out."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver elects a new leader: Shelby, a Border Collie mix."