DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s new police chief took action overnight and authorized the removal of all of the stuff Occupy Denver protesters have been leaving on the sidewalk in Civic Center Park.
Officers moved in with riot gear on just before midnight and firefighters and city cleanup crews were on hand as Broadway was closed while the action took place.
One or two protesters set some of the items on fire and crews had to work to extinguish the flames. Four people were arrested, and authorities had to make sure no one was left in the makeshift dwellings the protesters have been living in and sleeping in.
Heavy city equipment then scooped up the sleeping bags, tarps and trash and removed it. Some bulldozers crushed some of the items at the scene.
Early on Tuesday morning there was no one at the Occupy Denver site, the first time in more than two months the section of Civic Center Park has been empty.
The effort came after Chief Robert White met with protesters for almost an hour Monday night and gave his second warning that they needed to remove all of their stuff.
“We certainly value their First Amendment rights, and we’re not trying to infringe on their First Amendment rights, but we also value the rights of the other citizens that live in our community and we want to make sure those rights are protected as well,” White said early Tuesday morning at the scene of the cleanup.
White said he thought the police and other city officials “did an excellent job” overnight.
Civic Center Park was trashed in the past week. The new sod has been trampled and the sandstone is covered in graffiti. There was also trash thrown in the trees, including a kayak.
Mayor Michael Hancock, Manager of Safety Alex Martinez, and Chief White defended the city’s actions, saying they’d warned Occupy Denver repeatedly.
“We’ve been very consistent and firm, ‘Please do not set up structures. If you do we’re going to have you take them down, or we’re going to take them down,’ ” Hancock said.
And next time White indicated they wouldn’t be so patient.
“If it goes up today, it goes down today,” White said.
See some of the images below from the protest site cleanup effort, or check out the full photo gallery.