Paul A. Anthony and Ryan Sabalow, Rocky Mountain News
August 25, 2008
DOWNTOWN — Protesters who clashed with police tonight near Civic Center Park say they were sprayed with pepper spray and shot with rubber bullets.
The protesters, 100 or more who range in age from their teens to their 50s, have been cordoned into an area of 15th Street between Cleveland and Court places by dozens of police in riot gear.
The standoff started in the park and then quickly moved, said Brandon Brown, a volunteer medic from Seattle, Wash.
Brown was carrying a bottle of water and offering it to the journalists and protesters who had been sprayed by officers.
Many coughed from peppery haze near the steps of the Wellington Webb Municipal Building.
When the crowd reached 15th, the officers formed a wall with their bodies.
The protest, which began about 7 p.m. in Civic Center Park, was an unpermitted event designed to “Disrupt the DNC,” as a series of anarchist protests organized by Unconventional Denver have been labeled.
According to literature reviewed by the Rocky Mountain News, attendees were told to “come ready for quick, decentralized actions spanning the downtown area at a variety of risk levels.”
Almost immediately, said protester Magi Belknap, 21, police fired pepper spray at the protesters, causing them to flee across the park and onto 15th Street, where numerous officers blocked them into a pair of parking garages.
“The police started hitting people,” Belknap said. “We only walked for like a block” before the confrontation, she said.
Protester Honey Traiman, 55, said the police action was unprovoked.
“It was a very peaceful little march,” she said. “They came from every side.”
“They came from all around,” said a young woman wearing a bandanna over her mouth after she made it past a wall of officers who had blocked her inside with their batons. “I tried to get out, but it was only when I started crying that they met me out.”
The woman declined to give her name.
Some observers said it appeared demonstrators may have hidden dozens of protesters inside the parking garages on 15th Street.
“I think they were hiding in the garages,” said John Chodkowski, who lives on Capitol Hill and said he was there to watch the events unfold after being caught in them while on a bike ride.
“This is pretty crazy.”
Information officer Jim Shires of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said he hadn’t heard of anyone being injured in the scuffle.
Shires said officers were separating those behind the barrier and interviewing them.
He said he didn’t know if anyone had been detained.
Pete Nelson, 23, of Denver called the scuffle a “police riot,” as he held a video camera, filming the wall of riot police.
“The cops were being brutally violent,” he said. “They weren’t doing anything but chanting.”
The crowd continued chanting “let them go” and singing songs nearly a half-hour after the crowd rushed to 15th. But by 8:15 p.m., the protest seemed to die down.
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