DENVER (AP) – A tent village has sprung up over the past four days at a park across the street from the Colorado Capitol, with dozens of people saying they’re out in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York.
Protesters said they’ve had a presence at a park on state land since Sept. 23, but recent cold weather has prompted their stay in about 26 tents or shelters made from wood and tarps. A makeshift kitchen made from 2-by-4s and tarps provides snacks and bottled water to the dozens who say they plan to camp out there through the winter, as well as providing meals such as oatmeal and coffee for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.
Colorado State Patrol officials who are responsible for the park did not have any immediate word on whether the protesters will be removed. State Rep. Wes McKinley, of Walsh, Colo., said he would spend a few nights camped out in a teepee and a bed roll with the protesters while he’s in town on legislative business.
McKinley served as foreman a grand jury from 1989 to 1991 that investigated claims of contamination at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant and a longtime critic of the federal government’s cleanup.
In Colorado Springs, protesters have set up four tents on the edge of a park downtown and have been staying overnight since Friday. Colorado Springs police spokesman Sgt. Steve Noblitt said overnight stays in the park are prohibited.
Rallies protesting the government’s response to financial crises were also planned this week in Boulder, Longmont and Fort Collins, where protesters decided Monday to take shifts to keep their rally going 24 hours a day indefinitely, said Fort Collins rally spokesman Dan Michniewicz.
The nearly four-week-old protest that began in a lower Manhattan park has taken on a semblance of organization and a coherent message has largely emerged: That “the 99 percent” who struggle daily as the economy shudders, employment stagnates and medical costs rise are suffering as the 1 percent who control the vast majority of the economy’s wealth continues to prosper.
While many at the encampment at the Capitol echoed that message, individuals had varied reasons for being there. Peter Brandt of Portland, Ore., was putting on a shirt outside a tent and said he’s stranded in Denver, temporarily homeless and there because there’s amenities that include food. Jonathan Dubinsky, a civil engineering student at the University of Colorado-Denver, was playing a drum in an impromptu musical group that included a guitar and said he was there to learn about sustainable cities as part of his studies.
The protesters out on Monday included people who took advantage of the Columbus Day holiday to hold signs and show solidarity, including Adams County social caseworker Sara Marsden, who held a sign saying, “Stop Voter Suppression.”
“I try to make my views known. I vote. I make calls. This is what needs to be done. We need to be out here,” Marsden said.
Tim Johnson, a community theater actor from Denver, said he’s out protesting what he said is the country’s apathy, fear and indifference and was one of several people standing on the sidewalk with signs.
“Starts out we get laughed at,” Johnson said as cars drove by honking their horn and people shouting words of encouragement from their open car windows. “We stick around long enough, then they’ll get angry. Then they’ll start to take us seriously.
“There doesn’t seem to be any organization to it. But that’s its power.”
Labor unions and students joined the protest in New York last week and President Barack Obama remarked that the protesters were “giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works;” some Republicans have been seeking to cast Occupy Wall Street as class warfare.
“Class warfare is not the way to go, because if I come against you, you’re going to come against me,” Johnson said in defending the demonstrations. “If they’re making it about the economic issues, that’s what it is. But it’s time for it (the protests) to happen.”
Denver Area Labor Federation President John Fleck said he has gone out to talk to the protesters, who asked him only for socks and wood to help build the tent village.
“It’s kind of ad hoc,” Fleck said, adding that some of the members of the federation’s 62 unions have provided support, including participating in a march downtown to the Federal Reserve Branch Saturday. Fleck said the federation as an organization hasn’t given the protesters any supplies or money.
By P. SOLOMON BANDA, Associated Press
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)