16th Street Mall shuttle service shut down due to perfect storm of protesters and zombies

One of this weekend's biggest downtown events -- Saturday's Denver Gorilla Run -- features a route that crosses past the 16th Street Mall but doesn't take place on it. That's no doubt a relief to the RTD. Last Saturday's events -- including the Zombie Crawl and separate marches involving Occupy Denver participants and police brutality protesters -- led to repeated closures of the free Mall shuttle.

RTD spokesman Scott Reed confirms that "we did have to suspend service several times throughout the day -- first of all at about 12:30 p.m. We shut down the section of the mall from Market Street Station to Civic Center Station at the request of Denver Police, because of Occupy Denver protesters walking throughout the area."

During this time, Reed notes that "we continued service from Denver Union Station to Market Street Station -- and at 1:32 p.m., we restored service to the entire mall."

Not for long, though. The Zombie Crawl followed, presenting special challenges for shuttle drivers. "They do a kind of attack game, where they attempt to kill each other -- zombie killers try to kill zombies, and zombies try to eat non-zombies," Reed says. "So there are a lot of people running in front of the transit way."

Overall, "we didn't have too many problems with the Zombie Crawl participants," Reed concedes. "But at 2:05 p.m. at Arapahoe and 16th, it became impassable, and police asked us to suspend service again. We did run the short shuttle again from Market Street Station to Denver Union Station during that time. But we had to keep the rest of the service suspended until 7:05 p.m., at which time police informed us that we could safely resume service."

This blessing was short-lived, however. "At about 8:35 p.m., we again decided that we would need to go with only the short shuttle from Market Street Station to Denver Union Station, and suspended the rest of the service for a while, because there was a group protesting the death of Mr. Booker" -- that's Marvin Booker, who died in custody back in July 2010. No one was charged in Booker's death -- and the same is true in the case of Alonzo Ashley, who died after an incident at the Denver Zoo. Booker, Ashley and other alleged victims of excessive force were among those name-checked in an event dubbed a "March Against Police Terror."

As of 9:15 p.m., regular shuttle service resumed -- and the police didn't order it suspended for the rest of the evening. Even so, Reed says, "it was quite a day in the life of the 16th Street Mall shuttle."

Tomorrow should be calmer -- so long as no gorillas stray from their designated path.

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More from our News archive circa January 2011: "Marvin Booker protest rally and march on the 16th Street Mall: A photo gallery."