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Colorado State Patrol, Denver Police Clearing Occupy Denver Camp Site

by Sara Burnett, Weston Gentry and Kieran Nicholson

DENVER, Colorado - At least one person has been arrested as police in riot gear moved into the Occupy Denver camp early this morning to dismantle tents and remove debris.

Several hundred Occupy Denver protesters remained in Lincoln Park, across from the State Capitol building early Friday morning, October 14, 2011 even as the park was deemed closed by executive order. (THE DENVER POST | Karl Gehring) Around 6:25 a.m., police marched lock-step through the camp, moving protesters into the street.

"The whole world is watching," chanted some protesters.

A core group of about 25 people remained around a makeshift structure that served as the camp's kitchen, dubbed by protestors as the "thunderdome."

Police handcuffed at least one protester with plastic ties and led him away. All the while, police have been video taping the event.

Some of the core protesters who refused to leave the "thunderdome," have been phsyically lifted by police in riot gear, moved out of the immediate area and then allowed to disperse on their own.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE:

Authorities in riot gear moved into the Occupy Denver camp near the Capitol early this morning to dismantle tents and remove debris, but despite warnings that people who remained in the park would be arrested, no arrests have been made.

Initially, a kind of calm standoff formed, with Colorado State Patrol officers and Denver police inching through the park and surrounding streets, usually in groups of a dozen or more, as protesters yelled at them, wave signs and at times stand or sit in the street surrounding police vehicles.

The protesters — who were told Thursday afternoon they had to leave the park by 11 p.m. — had hoped that if they held their ground until 5 a.m., when the park typically reopens, they would be able to resume their protest.

But the Colorado State Patrol announced this morning that the park has been closed indefinitely, by executive order.

Around 5 a.m., police also announced that the group had 30 minutes to remove makeshift structures they have built, including a kitchen and medical tent, which the protesters have dubbed the "thunderdome."

Many protesters began packing upon hearing the news, saying they were moving gear to "safehouses" so they could rebuild either at the same park or elsewhere.

Others, however, said they were determined to remain.

By 6 a.m., the "thunderdome" remained intact, along with dozens of protesters, and authorities warned protesters again to have the structure dismantled within 15 minutes.

Authorities have closed southbound Broadway between Colfax and 14th Avenue, as well as some lanes of eastbound Colfax near Broadway.

It's unclear whether the roads will be reopened as morning traffic picks up.

Denver police has surrounded the park. SUV's were parked nearby with police dogs inside.

The Occupy Denver movement has mirrored similar movements across the country that started with New York's Occupy Wall Street, which protesters say is a response to frustration over what they view as the country's inequitable financial system.

There have been no reports of Occupy camps being forcibly evicted in other cities, but more than 100 people were arrested this week when they tried to expand Occupy Boston. Also, the Occupy Wall Street group has been told to vacate by 7 a.m. today.

In Denver, the encampment at its height had about 70 tents, a kitchen with free food, library, school, worship tent, security detail and nurses station.

On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper held a news conference, along with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, demanding the protesters disperse by 11 p.m. or face arrest for violating state laws that forbid camping on those grounds.

The protesters held a general assembly around 7 p.m., where they discussed options, including marching from the camp to another site, possibly downtown.

While some in the group chose to leave by or shortly after the 11 p.m. deadline, the majority stayed.

Speaking at a 9:30 p.m. news conference forced indoors by chants and a crowd that surged onto the Capitol steps, State Patrol Chief James Wolfinbarger said that troopers could take action including issuing citations or making arrests between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

"We want people to go home," Wolfinbarger told a small group of media, his voice sometimes drowned out by people outside pounding on the Capitol doors and yelling. "We want this to end well so people can come back tomorrow and continue."

He also expressed concern that the original Occupy Denver protest has been "hijacked" by people whose goal is civil disobedience.

"The concern is this group that is out there in large part is not representative of the group out there at the start," Wolfinbarger said.

Authorities didn't appear at the park until approximately 2:40 a.m., when a state patrol captain drove an SUV to the corner of Lincoln and 14th Avenue and announced via loudspeaker that the crowd had until 3:15 to disperse.

As he repeated the warning several times over the next 40 minutes, crowds formed around the SUV, yelling at police to let the peaceful gathering continue.

Around 3:15 a.m. rows of squad cars parked on Lincoln and Colfax, and officers began walking into the park. Others stood on Broadway. Dump trucks were brought in for tents and other trash that authorities picked up and threw away.

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