Denver cops evict "Occupy" protesters from park

A Colorado State Patrol officer stands guard at the Occupy Denver protest in front of the Colorado State Capitol, Oct. 14, 2011.
AP Photo

Updated at 12:46 p.m. ET

DENVER - Dozens of police in riot gear herded Wall Street protesters away from the Colorado state Capitol grounds early Friday, arresting 23 and dismantling their encampment.

Most of the demonstrators retreated without resisting, chanting "Peaceful!" or "Shameful!"

One person was arrested on a charge of simple assault, Colorado State Patrol Capt. Jeff Goodwin said. He did not elaborate, and no other violence was reported.

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Goodwin said 21 people were arrested on charges of unlawful conduct on public land, and one on a jaywalking charge.

The protesters had been camped at the Capitol for about three weeks in support of the national Occupy Wall Street movement.

In New York, just a few hours after protesters learned they'd be able to stay indefinitely at the lower Manhattan plaza where they've been camped out for a month, police and protesters clashed near the New York Stock Exchange.

(Watch at left)

The official cleanup of the plaza named Zuccotti Park was postponed early Friday, sending up cheers from demonstrators who feared the effort was merely a pretext to evict them and said the victory emboldened their movement. Fourteen people were arrested in the clashes, police said.

In Seattle, police say 10 Occupy Seattle protesters were arrested after some associated with a tent in a park did not comply with orders to leave late Thursday night. Earlier, some protesters gathered outside a downtown hotel where Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney had a private fundraiser.

At Colorado's Capitol grounds, officers carried or dragged some from the camp and led others by the arm. Stragglers were carried to small groundskeepers tractors and driven away.

"My main complaint is there is no more middle class in America. The rich control most of the money," said David Humphrey, 24, of Pine. He carried a sign with a picture of President Barack Obama and the words "Change God bless."

Dave Kelley of Arvada held up a sign supporting Gov. John Hickenlooper's order for the protesters to vacate the park. "Right choice gov. No one is above the law," it read.

Kelley, a flooring contractor, said he isn't angry at Wall Street and thinks most of the protesters don't understand capitalism.

"If it wasn't for Wall Street, where would we be? They will pull this around, even though it has had its troubles," he said.

Authorities had taken no significant action against the protesters until Thursday, when Hickenlooper toured their camp and then ordered the protesters to leave by 11 p.m. He and other officials noted it was illegal to camp at the site. They also cited concerns about public safety and health.

Many of the protesters defied the orders and stayed. At 2:30 a.m. Friday, state troopers told the crowd to leave within 45 minutes. At 3:30, troopers and Denver police officers began taking down dozens of tents.

At about 6:30 a.m., officers advanced on some of the remaining protesters who had locked arms around a few tents still standing. Goodwin, the State Patrol spokesman, called it an act of "passive resistance."

Officers held their batons horizontally and nudged or pushed the protesters to break up the human chain.

By 7 a.m., most of the group had retreated across a street that had been closed to traffic. Some protesters moved back into the street when officers let traffic flow again, prompting police to herd them back to the sidewalk.

Authorities loaded tents, signs and debris from the camp into dump trucks and hauled it away.

A nearby bus station was closed because of the police action. About a dozen downtown bus routes were picking up and dropping off commuters on the sidewalk outside the station.