In the wake of Saturday's Fuck the Police march (see photos below), assorted media outlets, including theDenver Post
, shared reports that urine-filled balloons had been hurled at the event, which resulted in five arrests. But Denver Police spokesman Lieutenant Matt Murray, who was on the scene, says he has no personal evidence that something like this actually occurred. But he saw plenty of other things.
Regarding the alleged balloons, Murray notes that "what I said then, and what I will say now is there were reports of that on the police radio, but I cannot independently confirm or deny that's true. I have no evidence to suggest it's true, and no evidence to suggest it wasn't true. But I never personally saw them do anything like that."
What about firecrackers? "I did see those," Murray says -- not to mention the scrawling of anarchist graffiti that contributed to most of the busts.
As for the overall performance of the law enforcers, "I will echo what Chief [Robert] White said. He was very proud of the men and women of the police department. He felt they acted very professionally; he felt the event was well-handled."
Although the march was not an officially sanctioned Occupy Denver demonstration, a number of longtime members of that group took part. Even so, Murray says that "as far as we're concerned, it was not an Occupy Denver event. This appeared to be more of an anarchist event."
Grapevine buzz suggests that such marches could become regular occurrences. Murray doesn't sound very enthusiastic about this prospect. Policing such rallies "is very expensive," he points out. "They take a lot of resources. And it's unfortunate when the right of peaceful protest that we're protecting reverts to illegal acts. That's when we have to get involved. We don't ever want to intervene in a protest. It's our goal to protect their right to protest against us." [Editor's note: The last two sentences of this quote have been changed slightly at Murray's request to better clarify the point he was trying to make.]
The march decried past allegations of police brutality, as well as the reinstatement of fired officers such as Ricky Nixon and Kevin Devine -- actions that have contributed to the DPD's dubious reputation among protesters. Does White see it as part of his job to reverse this perception?
"I'll let the chief's words speak to that," Murray allows. "He says we have a good department he wants to make great. He has not found a culture of excessive force, but he does see things that need to be changed in the culture, and that's what he's working on."
Look below to read our earlier coverage. Note that Murray can be seen in the background of our photo of Chief White below.
Original post, 7:27 a.m. February 27: As we've reported, Saturday's Fuck the Police march wasn't an officially sanctioned Occupy Denver event. However, a number of OD members were prominent among the protesters, who made their antipathy toward police tactics known during a demonstration that began on the 16th Street Mall and continued to the area around Civic Center Park. Look below for photos and more details.
As Kelsey Whipple reported last week, the rally was not endorsed by the Occupy Denver general assembly. "While Occupy Denver...supports free speech," she wrote, "it doesn't want to alienate either the 99 percent or the police by publicly supporting the march."
There was no such reticence on the part of the Internet collective Anonymous, which posted the following illustration and message on the outfit's news Tumblr:
Global Friends, LulzPirates, Anarchists and Anons:
Join Anonymous and an array of other determined activists on Saturday, February 25 at 7PM for a march against police brutality worldwide.
Today, we live in an oppressive police state. No more are the police there to act on behalf of the public, to safeguard our freedoms and essential liberties from those who would violate them. Instead, the police act as the long arm of the state itself. They are its on-the-ground bullies, beating down the everyday citizen with their tools of tyranny - the nightstick, the pepper spray, their fists, their handcuffs, their Tasers.
And what do these pigs get when they violate us? When they beat us? When they batter us? They get a slap on the wrist and go right back into duty. Recently, two officers who were initially fired after the Downtown Denver beating, were reinstated to their jobs with backpay. The excessive force exercised by those who were supposed to be representative of safety and peace is disgusting.
While the police motto is universally "To Serve and Protect," today's police forces do anything but this. They are agents of a government that would impose its ordered oppression upon us all and slowly strip us of each and every right and freedom that matters. We must unite against this state threat, and we must make ourselves heard.
The march will begin at the D&F Clock Tower at 16 and Arapahoe. Join us as we don our masks and bandanas and unite as one strong voice opposing the violent and dystopian police state in which we all now live.
Join Anonymous. Join us in solidarity and let us march as one through the streets of Denver as we yell, in unison, "FUCK THE POLICE."
We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Whipple was only able to attend the first twenty to forty minutes of the event. According to her, the crowd was slow to gather, but toward the end of her stay, more people arrived and the tone of participants became more aggressive. She personally saw only one arrest, for what appeared to be failure to obey a lawful order: She says marchers were told to stay out of the streets and steer clear of police property, but many declined to do so.
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In the end, five people were arrested for graffiti-related offenses. According to the Denver Post, individuals drew an anarchist symbol -- an A with a circle around it -- on several vehicles, included a bus and a police car. The Post also reports that urine-filled balloons were hurled, but Whipple exchanged texts with numerous protesters who said they didn't see anything like this happen.
On hand throughout the event was photographer Brandon Marshall. See a sampling of his images below, featuring protesters and police led by Chief Robert White, and click to check out the complete "Fuck the Police rally" slideshow.
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More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Updated: Occupy Denver's latest eviction ends in flames, arrests and Tebowing."