FRIDAY UPDATE 6:30AM: After an apparent standoff most of the night, police moved in after 6AM and are, as of this writing, clearing out tents and other structures from Lincoln Park. Media reports upwards of 1,000 protesters overnight.
UPDATE #3 10:45PM: Police appear to be preparing to enforce the order that protesters not camp in the area surrounding the Veteran’s Memorial. A sizable crowd has formed in the park.
UPDATE #2: 9NEWS reports:
[I]n a statement Thursday morning, Governor Hickenlooper clearly stated that the protesters have until Thursday night to pack their bags and leave. He claims that although he agrees that these protesters have a right to speak their mind – their camping out overnight could be dangerous to the public.
Mark Silverstein, the ACLU legal director, felt that the posting of tents could be a “symbolic speech that’s protected by the First Amendment.”
“I’m not saying they have a legal right in court to keep those tents there,” Silverstein went on to say. “We’d ask the question: Is there a way the government can accommodate the expression without having to shut it down, without having to clear people out of the park?”
UPDATE: In a tense press conference a few minutes ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and Attorney General John Suthers say (again) that protesters can’t camp where they are, specifying an 11PM-5AM period when they are not permitted to occupy the park. No word on any specific enforcement planned, but Occupy Denver protesters are interpreting Hickenlooper’s remarks as an imminent threat–and calling for backup.
FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:
With more than 100 people now camped out in Civic Center Park between Lincoln and Broadway, about 60 yards from Hickenlooper’s office, Sen. Greg Brophy issued a statement Thursday morning calling on the governor to take action.
“All of Colorado is watching and the Governor has already set a dangerous precedent by allowing this to happen,” said Brophy, R-Wray…
Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock aren’t certain what to do about the growing tent city of protesters even after meetings on Wednesday, after which they released a joint statement.
“The Occupy Denver protesters are on State property. The State and City are working together to find a solution that balances Occupy Denver’s First Amendment rights with growing concerns around public safety and public health in violation of city ordinance and state law.”
…Arresting all the protesters on misdemeanors and expecting them to be jailed is unrealistic, leaving Hickenlooper to joke Tuesday that the best solution may just be waiting for the weather to get colder.
For one thing, supporters of the Occupy Denver encampment–far more than ever appear on the site of the protest at any given time–are all linked by social networking technology. Part of the “unrealistic” nature of forcibly dismantling their encampment is the likelihood that thousands of people would instantly descend on it the moment police began preparations to do so. And yes, if the mass arrest of 100 people is something authorities feel uprepared to carry out, the arrest of several thousand is pretty much out of the question.
We are kind of wondering, though, what Sen. Greg Brophy, notable gun-toting mountain biking GOP tough guy, thinks the mass arrest and forcible dismantling of Occupy Denver would look like. And whether he’d really like to take responsibility for such a thing.