Occupy Denver's Michael Hancock meeting: Mayor refuses to bend on park occupation
Update, 5:18 p.m. October 18: When asked to describe Occupy Denver's meeting with Hancock this afternoon, protester Al (full name withheld) went with, "It was neutral." The less-than-exciting introduction matches the results, which take neither side any further toward agreement than before the meeting. Attended by Al, Paula Fedyk and Amy Marschak, as well as Hancock, several staffers and the chief of police, the meeting lasted a total of twenty minutes, ten fewer than allotted.
"It was clear to me they want to occupy the park," Hancock said at a press conference after the meeting, repeating a well-established fact. "We simply cannot allow that to happen. We don't want to set a precedent."
A sampling of Occupy Denver's former tent city.
While both sides briefly aired their grievances, the occupation concentrated mainly on finding a way to rebuild tents and improve upon Thunderdome III, the most recent incarnation of the group's kitchen area and focal point. Right now, protesters are avoiding arrest by moving off official park property at night and onto the sidewalks instead, and discussion of the meeting at the group's 3 p.m. general assembly did not provide any other options.
All three representatives expressed the group's plan to continue occupying the area. "We're not going anywhere, but he already knew that," Marschak says. Overall, the attitude about the meeting was one of suppressed disappointment, particularly considering how much planning was allotted toward setting it up.
The most beneficial aspect of the meeting, then, is that it opened a gate for future communication between the two parties, though no further meetings have been scheduled at this time and any that are will likely not include the mayor, only his staff.
"Nobody cussed or flapped their ass cheeks," Al says. "The only time I was blatant was when I pointed out that it was with [Hancock's] knowledge and approval that force was used and a child was Maced in the face. We both gave our perspectives, but I don't know what else is going to result."
In the meantime, Al says he has been asked to meet with representatives of the Denver Police Department for a meeting with its internal investigations group focusing on the protests. When asked if he expected any progress to result from today's meeting, he said, "Not right now, at least."
Original post: Following a press conference last Thursday featuring Mayor Michael Hancock, Governor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, Occupy Denver protesters have faced two altercations with city and state police over their right to peacefully occupy a series of spaces downtown. Today, the group is taking a more direct approach: Three representatives are meeting with Hancock at 1 p.m. to discuss ways to work together, this time without pepper spray or police batons.
The group has been debating such a discussion across the span of a few general asembly meetings, but last night's ended with the final details. A meeting has been arranged through a third party, and it will last a half hour. Last night's GA included a vote on who will represent the group, and three very different people have been selected, along with two backups. (It should be noted that protester Corey Donahue's nomination called for "everyone" to attend.) The goal is for the meeting to encourage an agreement on how Occupy Denver can keep going without the threat of arrests or other police interference. However, no immediate decisions will be made at the meeting. In adherence to the occupation's consensus model, and in order to avoid the creation of a representative democracy, the three representatives will return to discuss the results at the 3 p.m. general assembly meeting.
And though no solid list of issues has been specifically denoted, the largest one is likely to be the existence of tents at Occupy Denver's headquarters. As the cold weather approaches and more freeze warnings like last night's become commonplace, the greatest concern is for the safety of those who continue the occupation at night. And without medical tents, a security area or other cemented spaces, it's questionable whether the group is actually occupying the area in any official capacity.
"Right now, we're more like Loiter Denver," Donahue says. "We need to find a way to become Occupy Denver again in a stronger sense of the word."
The Latest Word will update this post with more details of the meeting later this afternoon.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver petition protests arrests, hopes for 10,000 signatures."