On Occupy Denver's first birthday, we count the ways it drove us crazy
When the sound and fury of Occupy Wall Street reached Denver one year ago this week, it became one of the city's largest stories — until, despite itself, it wasn't anymore. It's hard to pinpoint when, exactly, that moment happened; perhaps it was when a handful of protesters interrupted a vigil for the deceased homeless, or when, a few weeks later, they Tebowed on the streets outside a fiery Civic Center Park. The movement's loss of relevance might even have occurred when, less than six months into its history, Mayor Michael Hancock declared it to be so: The media stopped caring, he told Westword. We just don't do things like that in Denver.
But we do, actually. Or we did. Occupy Wall Street celebrated its one-year anniversary on September 17, while Occupy Denver's birthday occurs on September 23 — even though the camping ban that was passed in May has prevented anyone from occupying much of anything, overnight at least. There are many things about the movement that made us hope, but there are also many things that made us hate it. Here's a list of five.
They ruined sidewalk camping
Or at least they did until the city council made it illegal for anyone to do so again. For weeks on end, through rain and snow and the occasional weather-induced hospital trip, devotees of the political movement snacked, snoozed and snored in a public park. When they were kicked out of that spot, the state-monitored Lincoln Park, they moved across Broadway to Civic Center Park, where they proceeded to trash the place to the point that it required repairs; this was shortly after taxpayers voted to spend millions of dollars to beautify the spot. Their most recent overnight occupation was on the sidewalk outside of Sports Authority during Sniagrab.
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They yelled a lot
When they yelled at Fox 31 political reporter Eli Stokols, he actually yelled back, but he was the only public figure to have dished it as well as the occupiers served it. Occupiers shouted at passersby, at police and at politicians. They interrupted vigils and Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless, and they made several city council members red in the face when they shouted "Shame!" during hours-long debates over the urban-camping ban. They even shouted with silence: Some Occupiers taped dollar bills over their mouths in a symbolic protest over the financial disparity they saw between lawmakers and those most affected by the young law. They never stopped shouting. So most of the city stopped listening.
They elected a dog
Last year, Occupy elected Shelby the dog as the leader of their leaderless movement, a concept that was a mixed bag of awesome and embarrassing — and worthy of mentions on Gawker, NPR and The Rachel Maddow Show. And although Shelby is, by all accounts, a friendly, intelligent and well-mannered border collie mix, she and her equally friendly owner are actually from Boulder, which doesn't give them quite enough power to reign over Denver. Like Occupy Denver, Shelby's bark was worse than her bite.
They lit our park on fire
On December 20, Civic Center Park was temporarily ablaze during a demonstration between police and protesters. And while both sides rarely maintained their cool, this time a small handful of protesters decided to make it very, very hot — by lighting the Occupation's temporary, and quite flammable, cardboard shelters on fire. This is why you don't have nice things, Occupy Denver.
Infamous protester Corey Donahue may or may not have jokingly tapped the nuts of a newspaper photographer, but the laugh-leaning headlines he created also distracted people from the Occupation's larger issues — financial disparity, homelessness, etc. — and became a recurring problem. They also created a misdemeanor assault charge that could get Donahue up to eighteen months in jail.
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