Occupy Denver clashed with the Denver Police Department again last night over a recently built cardboard shelter in Civic Center Park. Later dubbed "the Thundercube" because of the symbol the Thunderdome has become regarding the group's rights, the small, ceiling-free fort was built from about 25 cardboard boxes that had previously been relegated to material for signs. Approximately ten minutes after it was built, six officers from the Denver Police Department arrived on the scene.
Citing Denver Revised Municipal Code entry 39-7, the police immediately asked the gathering, which had swelled due to the 7 p.m. general assembly, to tear down the new fort. Originally built as a small shelter against the cold and a public art piece, the cardboard shack was at that time devoted to the signatures and messages of several Sharpie-holding hands. The group's immediate reaction was to refuse, at which point the officers, supplemented by two cop cars, one SUV and two motorcycles, made it clear that anyone defending the cardboard structure would be arrested.
Presented in full by DPD sergeant Jeff Hausner, DRMC 39-7 states:
"It is unlawful for any person... to build or place any tent, building, shack, booth, or stand... in or on any city park... without having first obtained a permit."
The small box shack drew immediate attention from police constantly positioned across the street to monitor the group because its placement blocked part of the sideway, Hausner says. "Even the people sleeping on the sidewalks at night are currently in violation of the law, but we're willing to let that one go. This one, we cannot."
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The fluctuating interpretation of the ruling drew confusion from the Occupy gathering, which was split almost in half on the decision of whether or not to tear down the Thundercube. "A few guys duct-taped the cardboard together, moved it over here and asked people to write on it," Regis freshman Connor McFarland says. "I came here after the solidarity protest for the four people in jail for squatting, and then all of a sudden the police were here."
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The confrontation was preceded by a 5 p.m. rally on behalf of a Sunday raid during which four Occupy Denver supporters were arrested for squatting -- including Amelia Nicol, an anarchist against whom murder charges were dropped earlier this year, and Occupy Denver profile subject Jonathan Shepard. As the interaction between police waiting at their vehicles and protesters sitting inside the structure grew more tense, so too did the relations between protesters, a handful of whom began to tear down the cardboard while others attempted to prevent them from doing so. As a rendition of "Happy birthday," accompanied by an alien-shaped cake, came from the Thunderdome, protesters gathered inside the remaining portion of the fort to sing a surprising mix of "Don't Stop Believin'," "Lean On Me" and Smash Mouth's "All Star." Two of the police offers present took turns photographing the scene -- until eventually there was nothing left to protest.
Around 9 p.m., about five more protesters joined the shack's original detractors to tear down the rest of the structure, a decision that upset those on the other side of the argument. Although a few joked about recreating it, the DPD has now set a precedent regarding how it will interpret the law in the city park. While smaller sites like the current Thunderdome are currently allowed, larger structures will not be permitted to exist, Hausner says.
In the meantime, a police presence remains in Lincoln Park across the street from the Occupy Denver camp at all times.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver's Amelia Nicol, Jonathan Shepard among 4 busted in raid on squat."