Activism

Occupy Denver: Biggest riot squad presence to date, pepper bullets, multiple arrests (PHOTOS)

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Original item, 7:24 p.m. October 29:: There are few scarier sights than that of 100 police officers putting on gas masks. That view, along with the largest showing of police force yet, graced Occupy Denver's weekly rally today when state and city police reacted to the renewed presence of tents. The unrest was met with pepper spray, batons, an unknown number of arrests and at least one protester being shot out of a tree with a round of pepper bullets.

In addition to including the largest show of police attention and force the occupation has faced yet, today's demonstration was also its earliest interaction with the police. Officers began to close in on the camp around 2:30, and Broadway between Colfax and 14th was completely closed off by 3 p.m. By 5 p.m., more than thirty police vehicles and 200 police officers, all in full riot gear, surrounded Civic Center Park before organizing and flanking the group. The scene has become a routine one and marks the third round of large-scale arrests and police intervention in a period of just over two weeks.

"It was a great party until the police crashed it with hundreds of rubber bullet guns," says protester Kerri Kellerman, who was arrested during both of the first two rounds. "We keep putting on peaceful protests, and they keep crashing them until it's not peaceful at all anymore once they're here." Early in the day, Occupy organizers called out on social media for people to show up in mass numbers for the Saturday rally to support efforts to "take back the park." This focused mostly on setting up eleven tents as a symbol of the movement's freedom and a reminder of the need it faces for shelter from increasingly cold weather. The majority of the tents were reclaimed from the state patrol yesterday by protesters with IDs after they were removed from the group's previous site in Lincoln Park.

By the time the day's approximately 2,000-person march rounded its way back to the campsite, with a long stop in front of the Capitol building, officers had mobilized and formed ranks around the area in preparation. During the early afternoon tension, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter spoke to protesters about the situation and emphasized a need for both sides to scale back.

At about 3:30 p.m., the first round of violent interaction occurred on the side of the park opposite the tents. Officers moved in on the gathering with pepper bullet guns already out and pointed -- an increase in aggression compared to the beginnings of previous demonstrations. As protesters grouped to shout chants at the cops and form a barrier between the officers and the camp, police opened fire on the group and openly sprayed tear gas at any occupiers standing in the way. One protester, Andrew Cleres, was shot from a tree with an entire round of pepper bullets while taking photos of the scene.

"I was just sitting in the tree and didn't confront the police at all, but when they started shooting, I was in their way and received the brunt of a lot of bullets," Cleres says. The result can be seen in bloody holes covering his right arm. "Then people tried to defend me, and they got shot, too."
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Kelsey Whipple
Contact: Kelsey Whipple