After an arrest was made in conjunction with the Oct. 24 Penny Flats fire, members of the Occupy Fort Collins demonstration have found themselves defending both one of their protesters, and their movement as a whole.
Benjamin Gilmore, a 29-year-old Fort Collins resident, was taken into custody last week and will appear in court this Thursday.
While he has been charged with first-degree arson, second-degree burglary and criminal mischief, most of the attention he has received is because of his affiliation with the Occupy Fort Collins demonstration.
â€œIâ€™ve considered him to be a genuinely nice person,â€ said Eric Eisen, an early supporter of Occupy Fort Collins who believes Gilmore is innocent. â€œHe has never once given me the implication that he is pro-violence.â€
Eisen also said he thinks the link between the protests and the fire has been drawn for largely political reasons.
â€œOther newspapers are trying to overemphasize the connection to discredit the movement,â€ he said.
Eisen added that the first principle of Occupy Fort Collins is rooted in nonviolence.
â€œAs soon as you start talking violence, that does indeed exclude you from being considered part of the Occupy movement, specifically,â€ he said.
The only time Eisen said heâ€™s ever seen violence in the Occupy movement is when a man threw salad dressing on some protesters out of anger.
At Gilmoreâ€™s first hearing, his bond was set at $250,000 cash-only, despite pleas from his family to lower the number, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
Limited information about the arrest is being released as the case remains under active investigation. All supporting documents have been sealed.
As for developments in the Occupy Fort Collins movement since Gilmoreâ€™s arrest, protesters were asked Friday to move their tents off of the parking lot owned by Bank of Choice. It has since relocated to city sidewalks near Maple and College Avenue, which is one block away from the site of the Oct. 24 fire.
Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.