Damage in Denver
It’s been decades since Denver police ended up looking like storm troopers in a confrontation with members of the public. But that’s exactly what occurred Saturday when city police in riot gear, assisted by Colorado State Patrol officers, attempted to remove Occupy Denver protesters from Civic Center Park.
They used pepper spray, pepper-ball bullets similar to paint-ball ammunition and police batons against the demonstrators.
Don’t get us wrong. Many of the occupiers were far from innocent. In particular, one protester who allegedly pushed a police officer from his motorcycle deserves to be prosecuted for assault.
Others allegedly rushed to put up tents in the park when they were specifically told to remove them, or attempted to demonstrate on the steps of the state Capitol without obtaining the required permit, according to The Denver Post.
Even so, it appears the police overreacted, spraying pepper spray, firing pepper bullets and clubbing with their batons indiscriminately, striking the innocent as well as the guilty.
They also arrested at least 18 people Saturday. Some of those arrested were doing nothing more than voicing their concerns on public sidewalks, an attorney for several defendants told the Post.
As we have said before, most of the occupy protests — from New York to Colorado to California — have offered a muddled message about what protesters are demanding, and little in the way of meaningful policy ideas. Even so, they have as much right under the First Amendment as anyone else to peaceably assembly and voice their viewpoints on public sidewalks, in public parks and in front of public buildings.
Furthermore, general interest in the occupy protests has dwindled over the past month, with polling data showing many Americans have been paying less and less attention to news coverage of the demonstrations. By responding with excessive force to the protesters Saturday, Denver police have given the occupiers exactly what they seek — more news coverage, along with renewed support and enthusiasm for their cause.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and his newly hired police chief, Robert White, need to re-evaluate how to handle the occupiers.