The past week proved to be a trying one for hundreds of protesters at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations across the country.
Following the extreme display of violence at Occupy Oakland that put Iraq veteran Scott Olsen in the hospital with a skull fracture, police forces in Denver and Austin have become more forceful with protesters, eventually erupting in the use of violent force Saturday night.
At around 7:30 pm on Saturday, Denver Riot Police began to move in and request the remaining protesters clear Civic Center Park. The protesters reminded officers that they were allowed to be there until and initially held their ground.
According to a statement on the Occupy Denver website, police later brandished “less-than-lethal” weapons at photographers and non-violent protesters in an attempt to move them away from the tents at the center of the encampment. Protesters reminded riot police that tents are symbols through which they were exercising their freedom of speech.
That’s when things got ugly.
We openly condemn the Denver Police Department for using pepper balls, shotgun-propelled beanbag rounds, pepper spray and tear gas on an entirely unarmed and nonviolent group. We have collected scores of unedited photos and videos depicting sheer brutality on the part of police on site: officers choking already restrained protesters, using a stun wand on a female arrestee who was already face down and pinned to the ground by an officer, verbally threatening protesters during the standoff, and recklessly and indiscriminately deploying chemical weapons on unarmed civilians, to name a few.
Police violence has never, and will never stop our movement’s momentum. We will continue to organize and move forward, as have Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Boston, and countless other occupations across the nation and around the globe.
Members of the Occupy Denver demonstration regrouped on Sunday to hold a sunset peace vigil in honor of the victims of police brutality and to ‘refocus their collective perspective on the primary goals of socioeconomic justice and peace.’
Also on Saturday, police arrested 38 participants from the Occupy Austin demonstration citing a city ordinance that bans anyone from sleeping on the mezzanine between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Protesters have been occupying the plaza in front of Austin’s City Hall peacefully since October 6th.
“This is private property, owned by the City of Austin as public space,” said an Occupy protester Brian Overman. “For them to come out with a memo saying we don’t feel that this particular area is appropriate for freedom of speech — there’s no precedent for that.”
Nineteen of the 38 people arrested have bonded out. They’re also banned from returning to city hall for at least two years.
According to KVUE, the arrests are drawing a reaction from the Texas Civil Rights Project. The director Jim Harrington released a statement saying, “If the police couldn’t handle the situation, then it would have been appropriate to bring in a mediator. It’s an absurd waste of tax money to spend police time and energy to break up a pure first amendment demonstration.”
Image Credit: OccupyAustin.org