This has been a busy month for Shelby, Occupy Denver's temporarily absent leader and erstwhile scapegoat for those who'd like the group to have one. The political Border collie celebrated New Year's in style: On her first trip to Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street's capitol, Shelby was greeted with a hero's welcome while 68 people were arrested. Could something like this happen in Boulder tonight?
As he discusses his well-known ward, Peter John Jentsch, Shelby's human companion, is supporting Occupy Boulder, whose protesters were warned around 1:30 p.m. today that they'll face felony trespassing charges if they violate the city's new park curfew ordinance by occupying their current home past 11 p.m. tonight. Yesterday, City Manager Jane Brautigam signed the final paperwork on the city's decision to enforce the curfew on public parks, and protesters have been warned in person to leave the area by the time it starts.
Although protesters plan to maintain a presence past 11 p.m., they might clear out tents and other items that can be treated as abandoned and seized. And they are staging a dance party.
"We're not leaving, but we do have some different options under consideration as far as what to do," Jentsch says. At this point, protesters aren't sharing their approaches, lest they be co-opted before completion. "We're going to wait to see what police officers do, and then we're going to plan our strategy based on their actions. But we'll be dancing all day and night while we wait."
This is Jentsch's second dance party this week. During Shelby's visit to the Big Apple, she witnessed the birthplace of the movement while her fellow protesters attempted to retake Zuccotti Park on New Year's Day. The police barricaded the park against protesters, including Shelby, Jentsch and a handful of other Occupy Denver transplants, who soon retaliated by removing the metal barricades themselves and dancing on top of them as police patrolled the area on motorcycle and horseback.
Before escaping the latest round of mass arrests, Shelby was the center of much attention for her role as the movement's top dog.
"A ton of people knew who she was -- everyone down there, pretty much," Jentsch says. "They were very nice to her and gave her lots of attention, and a lot of them petted her and hailed her as their leader."
Do we hear the Occupy presidency in Shelby's future? The local leader, as usual, remains mum on the subject. (Her bark is worse than her bite, but she never bites and rarely barks.) In the meantime, she has been noticeably absent from Denver politics, though Jentsch assures Westword she has no plan to abandon her constituents. "We'll be doing more of Occupy Boulder than OD," he says, "but we'll still be going down."
When Occupy Denver was evicted on December 21, this time as a result of encumbrances. Protesters built a cardboard doghouse especially for Shelby, but she was unable to stay in it before it was moved to a Public Waste truck. Today, she's simply broadening her platform to Boulder, which is her hometown and current address.
"It's a healthier movement right now, and Boulder offers an opportunity for us to create something positive," Jentsch says. Occupy Boulder's plans for the near future include the construction of a free hospital, though much of this hangs on the impending eviction. Thus far, he points out that "the police haven't been as violent" in Boulder, "so we still have our library and tents up. It's not just reaction to them there; it's starting our own initiatives still."
Here's a video of Shelby and Jentsch interacting with Boulder police:
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Since Shelby returned from Liberty Plaza yesterday, she has already earned more attention -- this time from police officers, who threatened Jentsch with a ticket if Shelby is not leashed in the future. As part of her platform, Shelby opposes all leashes and usually manages her business without the use of one.
"The police harassed me and Shelby and personally gave me a warning that they'd give me a ticket if she doesn't obey," Jentsch says. "She's been fighting the man, but she'll be on a leash for a while."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: What local artifacts would make it into museums and history books?"