Today, hundreds of protesters took the day off from work and school to spend it with Occupy Denver in Civic Center Park. For the local movement and its community partners -- the Mercury Cafe included -- May Day began at noon with a march and rally and will continue until dusk, at which point the group will occupy the 16th Street Mall to show its opposition to Denver's proposed urban camping ban. Last night, Denver City Councilvoted to preliminarily approve the ordinance
, which would make it illegal to camp on public or private property.
But today, International Workers' Day is about skirting the system altogether. Along with political groups such as the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, which will hold its own May Day rally at the park later in the afternoon, Occupy Denver attracted new visitors and public attention with a 24-hours-of-awareness focus on economic issues. Students from Metro State and the University of Denver skipped class to make appearances, as did members of the business community. No suits and ties were to be found.
Westword met up with the group on its march downtown earlier today. Here are some photos from the event.
For more information and the list of this afternoon's remaining events, click through to our previous coverage. Original post, 6:45 a.m.: If you're looking for a break, you might find one in this paragraph. In conjunction with International Workers' Day, Occupy Denver and a handful of other community groups are promoting a May Day free of civic responsibility. In order to bring attention to workers' rights, supporters are encouraged to refrain from work, school and any kind of commerce -- don't even think about banking or shopping -- for the entire 24 hours. Instead, your empty day can be filled at Civic Center Park.
Because Civic Center Park is scheduled for repairs through mid-June, supporters will use the areas that aren't blocked off for the May Day event. Preparation began two and a half months ago and terminates tomorrow in a day of music, poetry and education.
After a noon rally and march, Denver's activists, hooky-players and day-offers will meet in the park's amphitheater for sessions of spoken word and performance art in addition to Denver's Wheelchair Sports Camp, Sole (Tim Holland) and other acts. From 5 to 8 p.m., Denver Handmade Homemade Market will experiment with the barter system by allowing participants to trade merchandise without the use of money.
So far, backing from local businesses "hasn't been incredible," Holland says, but the group has organized support from a handful of area political and activist organizations that have pledged to celebrate May Day. So far, the list includes the Mercury Cafe, which will shut its doors tomorrow, in addition to the Colorado Progressive Coalition, Romero Troupe, Colorado Anti-Violence Coalition, P&L Printing, and the Denver Greens, among others.
Here's Occupy Denver's May Day preview video:
"All over the world, if you're in Germany or Spain of Britain on May Day, the city is shut down and people are parading in the streets," Holland says. "People storm Corporate and have dance parties in the middle of these offices. It's a day for militant, radical action all over the world, whereas here it's barely recognized at all."
Although the event is less popular in North America, its Denver organizers hope to use it as a platform to re-institute a focus on the country's economic climate. "I think this will be a true test of the help of Occupy and where America is at right now," Holland says.
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At 9:30 tomorrow night, Occupy Denver will also stage a sleep-in on the 16th Street Mall to protest City Council's proposed urban camping ban. After a vote, the group agreed to spend the night between Tremont and Welton near the Denver Pavilions theater in solidarity with the city's homeless population.
"The bottom line is that there will be a lot of direct actions, a lot of people doing a lot of different things," Holland says. "We want to see a lot of direct actions, a lot of disruption of commerce, a lot of activity -- a lot of community."
Click to view tomorrow's full May Day schedule.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Photos: Urban camping is no picnic for Denver's homeless who sleep outside."