DENVER – An empty parking garage on 15th Street in downtown Denver fostered an escape route for what Denver police said was a group of outlaw protesters Sunday when a riot control squad blocked their protest march, which deviated from a city-approved path.
The activists, who donned handkerchiefs around their faces and held orange and black flags, were protesting the Democratic National Convention.
The garage, located on the corner of 15th Street and Tremont Plaza, had an entrance between the protest group and the police blockade, making it their only route to continue the march.
About 100 of the 300-person group made it through the garage to the Tremont Plaza exit. One of the protesters, however, stayed in the building and was chased by bicycle police.
The rest of them dispersed and tried to make it back to the original group. Angry protestors had screaming matches with police, but no physical violence broke out, and there were no arrests.
Police ordered spectators and reporters to leave the scene.
The picketers, who represent several national anti-war and anarchist groups, stopped the protest about an hour after it started from the 16th Street Mall.
The goal of the initiative, which was organized by anti-war activist group Recreate ’68, is to “disrupt” the DNC schedule. And some of the organizations wish to “cause chaos” to draw attention from the convention, which they say is a song and dance to provide a vehicle for a political agenda.
Before the organized protest, which was given the moniker “Take Back the Streets,” Matt Lawrence, a Fort Collins based organizer with Unconventional Action Denver, said it was planned to draw media attention away from the DNC Committee’s planned events to focus on the issues facing America.
“[We need] to disrupt the spectacle,” Lawrence said.
In the middle of the march, the activists blocked Lincoln Street and Broadway Street for about 40 minutes. Police arrested a 19-year-old male with the group for not complying with their demands to clear the street.
Earlier that day, protestors with the same organizations were herded to the Pepsi Center from the Capitol Building by Denver police via a route no one anticipated. They expected to be corralled into what they call “freedom cages” near the Pepsi Center.
The area was allocated by the city officials for protest groups.
But the group of nearly 500 made it past the scheduled parade path, which a security official said “broke the permit.”
At an intersection near the Pepsi Center, which was farther than the city-granted parade permit allowed them to go, Glenn Spagnuolo, an organizer with Recreate ’68 turned to his crowd of protesters and said, “Let’s turn around, go back to the Capitol.”
When police realized that the protesters had gone too far, they ordered the crowd to stick to the 7th Street sidewalk, which was barricaded.
“Officers, it would be great if you could point us toward the sidewalk,” one protester shouted from the middle of the street.
Glenn Morris, a security agent with one of the protest groups said the police were within their right to arrest some of the picketers, but didn’t because there were too many of them.
Morris said they made the right choice.
“Because nobody expected to be that far, the march back to the Capitol was broken,” he said.
Spagnuolo, a 37-year-old political science major at CU-Denver, said that while he plans to be confrontational with law enforcement, it was too soon to disobey their commands, adding that if he were taken into custody, Recreate ’68 has plenty of leaders ready to take his position.
“You’ve only got so many bullets,” he said. “I’m not going to get arrested on the first day. . [But] we don’t organize in a hierarchy, so if you pick me off, there are five people ready to take my place.”
News Managing Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.