Four Arrests at Denver May Day March; Occupy Needs to Learn More About Solidarity
Four persons were arrested and a two-year-old child was hit by a bicycle-riding cop yesterday during Denver's May Day March. According to witnesses, the behavior of one or more of the parade marshalls contributed to the problems, rather than mitigating them, and marchers abandoned their arrested comrades, rather than assisting them or otherwise showing solidarity.
The problems commenced after one marcher began dancing in the street. A marshall came up behind the marcher, seized him, and attempted to push him along, instead of approaching him face-to-face, and using verbal communication. The dancer, taken by surprise and unable to see who was pushing him, began resisting what must have seemed like an attack. Cops then closed in and arrested the dancing marcher, though they did not arrest the marshall. The original charge was jaywalking, which is not an arrestable offense. This charge was later changed to obstructing traffic.
During the incident, a cop, apparently unable to control his zeal at the prospect of participating in an arrest, ran his bicycle into a little two-year-old girl. The child's father then began speaking out very strongly in defense of his daughter, only to be rebuked by the same marshall who had caused the original problem.
Later in the march, another person was arrested, also for jaywalking, changed during booking to obstructing traffic. This person had been slated to perform later that day in the General Strike activities at Civic Center Park.
The marchers carried out direct action protests against businesses that support the proposed anti-sleeping ordinance, now under consideration by Denver City Council. These businesses included Verizon, AT&T, Brown Palace Hotel, Wells Fargo Bank, the Pavillions, the Golden Leaf Hotel, and Key Bank. The protest succeeded in shutting down Wells Fargo Bank. Protestors also staged a sleep-in in the lobby of the Golden Leaf Hotel. Two more persons were arrested during the direct action phase of the march, both charged with obstructing traffic, though there was no traffic, since the police had blocked off the roads. One of the arrestees had been live-streaming the event.
Prior to and during each arrest, the marshalls seemed most concerned with moving the march along. No efforts were made to surround the persons being arrested, to call for their release, to assist them or show solidarity in any way. After the march, only a small group of protesters went to the jail, to try to see the arrested persons and ascertain their condition and bail amounts. They were not able to do any of this, as the cops chained the door shut, evicting all other visitors and bail-bondsmen already in the building. The cops told all these evicted persons and the inmates they had come to visit or bail out that the protesters were responsible for the lockdown. This was, of course, a blatant lie, though the visitors, bail-bondsmen, and inmates had no way of knowing what the truth was.
The problems that occurred during this march are not new. They have been observed consistently among Occupiers in Denver and Boulder, and historically, among other persons new to activism. While Occupy Denver's solidarity with the homeless is extremely valuable to us and greatly appreciated, solidarity within the activist community is indispensible, if the changes we all need and want are to be accomplished. It is especially sad to see that this solidarity was lacking on May Day, of all days.
The solution to this problem--this inability to act in solidarity-- is for newer activists to take the opportunity to learn from those who have long experience in the Struggle, and from traditionally oppressed communities. There are many people in the Denver area who have such experience and can offer the appropriate training. We recommend Occupiers make an effort to learn the art, science, and history of struggle, before all that you have accomplished collapses from within.
(Names of arrestees and witnesses have been withheld from this story, on request.)