The police moves in on Occupy Denver's largest gathering yet -- with pepper spray (PHOTOS)

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Update, 10:11 p.m. Saturday: Mayor Michael Hancock's office has announced that an additional 24 people were arrested in tonight's protest.

Their arraignment is scheduled for 8 a.m. tomorrow at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center. In the meantime, police are present at Civic Center Park with the intention to close it down at 11 p.m.

Update: 7:42 p.m. Saturday: After being pepper-sprayed and pushed back almost to the middle of Civic Center Park, Occupy Denver protesters have organized a sudden march downtown, while around forty protesters remain in the park, now on the sidewalk. It is unclear how many arrests were made and how many people might have been instead detained, but Mayor Hancock's office has confirmed multiple arrests, and the Denver Anarchist Black Cross estimates at least ten.

The interaction between protesters and cops became confrontational as people were forcibly removed from the area, occasionally with the use of batons.

The kitchen tent is no longer standing, nor are any other structures. The food from the kitchen, saved from the previous protest on Friday but left on the ground when police removed the tent, has been thrown away. Cops have closed off blocks of downtown all the way down to around 17th due to the Occupy Denver march on the 16th Street Mall.

Photos below:

Page down for more coverage: Update: 6:59 p.m. Saturday: Tear gas greets the protesters and arrests are being made. Those on the ground in front of the kitchen are being picked up and forcibly removed by the police.

The food tent has been torn down -- there's nothing but food left on the ground in a pile -- and protesters are kneeling on the ground, pouring water on themselves to get the pepper spray out of their eyes. Almost all the people left are now covering their faces.

Update: 6:40 p.m. Saturday:

The police have moved as close to protesters as possible without touching them. A few minutes ago, the scene was panic, as protesters with criminal records left the area.

Officers from Denver Sheriff Department and State Patrol are on the scene, because both have jurisdiction over the area. The majority are still State Patrol officers.

The cops and kitchen workers are facing off and neither side is moving back. Every protester here is flocking to food tent because it seems to that the most aggressively activist protesters are working the kitchen tent. It's the only tent on the grounds so it's the most visible symbol of the movement.

Protesters continue to shout, "We shall not be divided" and "we are the 99 percent."

Meanwhile, police have just said for a third time that protesters to have one minute disperse.

Update: 6:10 p.m. Saturday:

Police have told protesters they have five minutes to get off Broadway. Protesters seem to be polite to the police, and are hugging each other. But they are not moving. The kitchen is still serving sandwiches to protesters but people with criminal records are leaving the area to avoid charges.

Update: 6 p.m. Saturday:

Riot officers with the Colorado State Patrol are walking on Broadway between 14th and Colfax, which is blocked off by protesters and the police are trying to break up the scene.

Right now there's a line of riot police coming and they're forming a line. Protesters are shouting "The whole world is watching" while a handful of protesters are spitting on the police. There are an estimate 40 riot police in full gear.

There's a line of cops, baton-to-baton on Broadway, between 14th and Colfax.

Original Item:

After a police officer twice asked protesters at

Occupy Denver

on Saturday to take down their new food tent, the heart of the local movement, the volunteers are backing up their refusal with vinegar soaked rags in case they face tear gas from the police. Occupy Denver has cemented its largest gathering yet, with between 2,000 and 3,000 people at the noon march, at least half of whom have returned to Broadway and are currently blocking the road between 14th and Colfax. In response, the number of police officers present has grown considerably since the large crowd returned from its rally and protest march around 3 p.m. Police cars currently block passage through two blocks of 14th, while more officers flock to the area that earlier today was monitored predominantly by a small group of officers on bicycles.


the Thunderdome, the original harbinger of hope and free food

at the Occupy Denver camp, was removed during the protest early Friday morning, along with

24 arrested volunteers

, it was replaced quickly the next morning by a new version at the corner of 14th and Civic Center Park. It is this tent officers have twice asked to be removed this afternoon, and they have been politely refused with the same frequency. 'Well, I'm not taking it down," an uncharacteristically stoic Crunchy (an Occupy kitchen worker) told the cop.

Occupy volunteers maintain that they were given permission by a contact from Mayor Michael Hancock's office to build the site, but Westword has not yet been able to confirm this. "It's ironic that the cops who are supposed to serve and protect people are stopping us from feeding the poor," says Pat Marsden, an Occupy kitchen worker and one of the 24 to be arrested. "They're trying to destroy us from every angle, and there's no end of irony here."

"I've never seen anything like this," says Scott Greene, the 24th and most recent volunteer to be arrested following Friday's events. This Saturday's crowd is easily four times larger than that of only one week ago, in large part because of local and national attention drawn on Friday night.

"I just got back from jail and headed over, and this response is incredible," Green says.

Last night was the group's first spent in Civic Center Park instead of its previous home across Broadway in Lincoln Park, and at least a handful of protesters occupied the area the entire night. The late hours did include attention from the police, however. Protesters were again asked to take down tents that had been temporarily set up in the area.

The intensity of the situation has escalated this afternoon as the much larger turnout has gathered around the new and as-of-yet nameless food tent. Much of the food from the Thunderdome was wheeled away at the last minute by volunteers with pedicabs, and it was returned to the new site this afternoon. Occupy Denver volunteers are currently preparing for a potential second intervention from the authorities after their move from state property to city property.

"We're encouraging people to bring over tents," Marsden says, at once sarcastic and serious. "Hell, I'll sleep here."

More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver photo gallery captures the night (and morning) the tent city came down."

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