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.)

I didn't know there were 4

I didn't know there were 4 arrests, I thought only 3.

Just for the record the last two people arrested for jaywalking or whatever were in a breakaway march that had no "marshalls."  And they completely isolated themselves on the other side of the street so unarresting them would have been very difficult.

And lots of people went to the solidarity demo at the jail, as a mater of fact.  Nobody was really asked to go to the jail before then.

From the marshal in question

As is detailed above, I made a huge mistake during the May Day march when I pushed a fellow protester who was dancing in front of a car. As a marshal, there were a lot of things I could and should have done instead of what I actually did, and in putting my hands on another person, I violated the duties and responsibilities of that role. There was a good deal of context that went into why I did what I did, but it doesn’t really matter because in the end, I should have known and done better. In asserting myself in that way, I crossed a line (probably more than one of them) and treated another person in a way they should not have been treated. Since the incident, I have not tried to defend or excuse my actions because I know that what I did was wrong, full stop.

I have been apologizing for days, but I’ve realized that what I really needed to be doing was asking for forgiveness. I made a stupid decision by putting my hands on another person, and I recognize it fully. For that decision, for that mistake, I ask that you please forgive me. I especially need forgiveness from the person who I mistreated, but as the aftermath of my mistake has affected multiple communities, I also need forgiveness from some of those who read this board.

In this movement, I have made and will continue to make mistakes. The only way we can continue to move forward together after we make mistakes is to recognize when they are made and seek each other’s understanding and forgiveness, to learn from them, and to commitment to do better in the future. You have that commitment from me, and I won’t be doing any more marshaling unless the whole community asks me to because obviously there are good reasons not to trust me any longer in that role.

I am truly sorry for my actions and the role they played in creating the incident on May Day, and hope that you will find a way to forgive me for it.

In ever-imperfect solidarity,

From an arrestee

It was 3 arrests for the day and I was one of the pair who were arrested later. I did break away from the march with 1 comrade which is the tactical error that resulted in our arrest. It was only 20 yards, but it was far enough away the unarresting us would've been practically impossible, indeed. I do very much agree with a need for increased tactical understanding in the Denver activist community, mainly starting with myself! I also did see a LOT of great tactical work amoung  the group that day; photographers walking back to back and people holding on to each others backpacks coming out of hot locations. For the most part the tactics were impressive for this break-out of direct actions on Mayday from OD radicals. The deal that surpasses tactical improvements, I feel, is numbers. Where are the radicals? Do we really live in that much of a red state (and I don't mean the kind of Red you probably wish I did) that we can't get more than 50 people out for anti-capitalist direct actions on Mayday? Maybe I need to move to Oakland. But I won't. I love Occupy Denver.

Brett Starr


problems and comments

Of the five witnesses I spoke to, only one claimed to know the number of arrests.  She did not want to name names, and I had only two names.  What I should have done was to state that I could not substantiate the number of arrests.

As for where the radicals are, quite a few still work, in various capacities, with Occupy Denver.  Some others who choose not to work with Occupy Denver have published articles and comments about their reasons on this website.