The whole world is watching, we’re not violent and we have the right to stay in Veterans Park. Adventures of an old man and the Occupiers.
I think most people know that America is now being Occupied. From Wall Street to Los Angeles, from Florida to Chicago, America is being Occupied. In fact, last weekend I was driving through Empire, Colorado, coming back from Winter Park, and I saw a sign that said, “Occupy Empire.”
Generally when I leave Empire on my way to Winter Park, I always look for the sign that says “Welcome to Grand County, You’re Leaving Planet Earth.”
Occupy Denver began Occupying what’s known as Veterans Park in September. I started making some stops there and made friends with a lot of young people that I have really come to respect and like. For those of you who read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, recall when the Joad family got to the government camp and there were committees inside the camp. Committees for policing the camp, medical supplies, guard duty, sanitation and of course the entertainment committee — all of which led to the night where the fight breaks out on the dance floor which would eventually lead to Tommy leaving Ma.
Occupy Denver seemed to be working really well with their committees — in fact I got to be very friendly with two of their media committee members. I’m sure they don’t want their names in this column in case anyone would ever use it against them in a future job app. When the end was coming and pressure was brought about by the mayor and the governor, like all good things Occupy Denver had to come to an end.
Note to self: By ordering the State Patrol and the Denver Police into potential harm’s way on the Thursday night/Friday morning when the Occupy removal began, conspicuous by their absence were the accidental mayor and the boy king John Hickenlooper.
Note to mayor and governor: If you’re sending your guys in to what could be a very precarious situation, be manly enough to go with them.
On the final night and into the final day, the Occupiers knew that the police were coming to remove them. During the day there were over 70 tents but when I got back at midnight it was down to about 35 tents. But apparently the people with good tents packed up and pulled out. One of the things I did see change was an element of people I’d never seen there before. I do believe they were outside agitators who called themselves anarchists. When the first of the law enforcement showed up at around 3:10 a.m., this crowd of people pulled on hoods, looking like street ninjas, and wrapped their heads, making themselves look like Colfax Bedouins.
It was clear, at least to me, that this wasn’t their first rodeo. They looked like they had come to fight. That night and that morning Colorado State Patrol and Denver Police were at their finest. A lot has been said recently about Denver Police getting out of hand; believe me, none of that happened that night.
State Patrol moved into the park from the southeast corner, swept through, and as they promised, tore down the tents. Behind them would come big, orange Colorado state dump trucks and I think, like the Trojan horse, the maintenance workers were all inside the trucks. They immediately got out of the trucks and started throwing the collapsed tents in the back of them. Protest signs went, blankets, sleeping bags — they all went into the truck. Then they stopped. Once given a moment to rest, they began again. They did this three times and in 45 minutes the whole park was clear except the kitchen that had been dubbed “The Thunder Dome,” the medical supply tent and the headquarters tent. These were built out of sturdy 2×4s and anchored on the sidewalk — therein property of the City of Denver.
Then moving in from the southwest side was the Denver Police. Everyone was in riot gear, no one spoke and they put up a wall that contained Occupiers on Broadway. They incrementally moved in. To the credit of law enforcement, by that morning, they allowed the Occupiers to remove all the food stuffs that had been either purchased or donated, and all the medical supplies, to be containerized and placed on the sidewalk. The Occupation was rapidly coming to an end and then it began. These are people who don’t seem to realize that the police don’t lose fights and have the right to go home safely when their shifts are over.
The element that mouthed off and tried to act tough were not the people I had become friends with during the time leading up to when everyone had to leave. And so, about 25 people assumed the boneless chicken position and got hauled off only to be released later that afternoon — law enforcement’s version of “catch and release.” And so it ended.
Here’s the lesson: In my lifetime, political change has come from the streets. The Civil Rights demonstrations from the ’50s became mass demonstrations in the early ’60s and the law in the middle ’60s. Ending the war in the ’70s had its roots in demonstrations in the early part of the ’60s. The same can be said for the struggle for women’s rights and eventually gay rights. So pay attention to the Occupy Movement. As more people lose their jobs, insurance and homes, and in essence their futures, the real question here is will middle class America join the Occupy Movement. It’s happened four or five times in my life already and history would teach us to pay attention to these people — this Movement could potentially have wings.
I’d like to leave you all with a quote from one of my favorite women from American fiction, Ma Joad:
“Did they make you mean in there Tommy? They made Pretty Boy Floyd mean.”
Right on. Power to the people.
Peter Boyles is a nationally acclaimed radio host who can be heard Monday through Friday on 630 KHOW 5 to 9 a.m. He has a monthly column in the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle. Visit Peter’s blog and comment on his column, or let him know anything else that’s on your mind, by going to the Chronicle Web site at www.glendalecherrycreek.com.