It wasn’t the biggest concern during our snowstorm Tuesday night and yesterday, but it was of vital concern to a few people, namely the Occupy Denver protesters down in Civic Center Park.
While the rest of us were scurrying home in the freezing rain-about-to-be-snow Tuesday night to settle down in our snug living rooms before our flickering fireplaces to sip hot chocolate and watch TV, the occupiers downtown were, shall we say, faring less well.
No doubt the entire Occupy Wall Street movement has been acutely aware that winter weather is going to create major problems for them, but it’s doubtful many expected to deal with winter quite so soon. Still, one has to wonder what they thought they’d do when the temperatures dipped below freezing and the snow started flying. Did they really think city governments would suddenly relent and issue blankets, or fire and camping permits, or permits to erect tents and other shelters?
I’m not without sympathy for many of the movement’s objectives. But I have little sympathy for people who will continue to sit outside in freezing rain and snow with no shelter and complain to the city that unless they are allowed to erect tents in direct violation of city ordinances, people will die. No doubt if someone had died, they’d blame the city even as they rallied round their new martyr to the cause — not unlike the occupiers in Oakland, where the police “martyred” a man by accidentally injuring him while trying to quell a disturbance reportedly started by the occupiers themselves.
Anyway, no tents were erected in Denver’s Civic Center Park — at least not for more than 15 minutes or so — and no one died. Sources said up to five people were treated for hypothermia at a hospital.
Unless deliberate violation of the law is the intent, the solution here is simple. The Denver occupiers know they are not allowed to “erect structures” (ie, put up tents) in the park. If the weather becomes so bad that they need tents for protection, then it’s obvious what they must do. Go home. It’s not up to the city to protect them from their own stubbornness and bad judgment. It’s not up to the city to bend the rules just because the seasons change, as happens every year about this time. It’s not up to the city to change the law just for the occupiers so they can build a tent city and stay where they are (their 10,000-signature petition notwithstanding).
Finally, whether they like it or not, the Occupy Denver demonstrators are occupying a public park that belongs not just to them but to everyone — to other Denver residents, to the people of Colorado, to tourists and visitors, to the cops they talk to every day, to me, and yes, even to the 1%.