Homeland Security gets in on the act, tells Occupy Denver noise complaint will trigger arrest


DENVER, COLORADO- Fresh on the heels of their courtroom victory, Denver police tell protesters at the weekly Tattered Cover picket: “We’ve received a complaint. Stop using the bullhorn or you will be arrested.” This from the window of a Homeland Security vehicle!

On May 6th a jury upheld Denver’s Disturbing the Peace ordinance, giving officers the right to stop political speech if they had the pretext of an onlooker’s complaint that the noise is “loud and unusual”. In the case of the TATTERED COVER FIVE, the objectionable noise was that of bucket drums. Case law has already established that protest drumming is protected speech, but city attorneys argued that didn’t apply if the intent to make noise had nothing to do with the protest message. Though megaphones were cited as contributors to the noise, the city and its police officers were careful to warn the protesters that only the drums were the offending elements, presumedly because what came across over the megaphones was pretty obviously speech.

Denver Occupiers returned to the Friday protest with little trepidation because we didn’t have our drums. We conducted the 5:30pm homeless feeding, then led chants and distributed fliers as we have every week since January 2014. We were discussing perhaps using drums again, maybe beating them softy this time, when activist at the corner holding down the vocal outreach reported an alarming escalation.

At 7pm the protesters at the corner of Wynkoop and 16th were approached by a police vehicle. From a rolled-down window an officer told they had to stop. “We’ve received a complaint” was the introduction we’ve heard before. “Stop using the bullhorn or you will be arrested.”

Um. No?

It’s the slow creep we anticipated, though probably a swifter kick of the boot than we expected. Give the DPD an inch and they want to hang you with it.

Except this was no mere DPD cruiser. It was a police vehicle marked “Federal Protective Service” from the Department of “Homeland Security”. Purportedly enforcing a noise ordinance.

So what next? The course seems obvious but it means someone willing to risk arrest, someone ready with a camera to record official interactions, and others prepared to backup the videographer and act as legal observers. Should a simple protest aming to interact with the public require such an infrastructure of extra activists? When Occupy Denver undertook to boycott the offending businesses behind the Urban Camping Ban, it seemed commitment enough to feed the homeless, hold signs and print fliers. Now we have to consult attorneys and spring legal traps for the popo.

So who’s up to play bait?

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