Cops, Occupy Protesters Clash in Denver; Portland Demonstrators Defy City Leaders

PHOTO: Arrests, Clashes at Occupy Denver and Occupy PortlandPlayDon Ryan/AP Photo
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Tensions between the Occupy protesters and police boiled over in Denver this weekend, and demonstrators in Portland, Ore., defied city officials by taking their march to one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods.

The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on for several weeks around the country, and in some cities, the movement has turned into a sort of stand-off between authorities and demonstrators who have been camping out in public places like civic centers and city parks.

Many of the protesters have vowed to remain where they are, ignoring curfews and sleeping in tents -- which has already resulted in hundreds of arrests across the country.

The latest arrests came early this morning in Portland, Ore., where protesters remained in a park in the affluent Pearl District past the midnight curfew, after city officials had told them not to expand their encampments beyond the parks they had already occupied.

March organizer Cameron Whitten told ABC affiliate KATU-TV in Portland that the neighborhood was chosen "to bring awareness to the inequality of wealth within our very city and to be in solidarity with other occupations and people in Portland and nationally who have been the target of police brutality."

Police vans began arresting people one by one, starting at around 3 a.m., detaining about 30 people during a 90-minute period of arrests, according to The Associated Press. There was no violence, as protesters showed no resistance, and most went limp so police had to carry or drag them away.

Demonstrators have been occupying two other parks in the city without conflict with the police. But Mayor Sam Adams said last week he would not allow them to take over any more parks, especially not in residential neighborhoods like the one in the affluent Pearl District where the protesters were arrested today.

In Denver, about 20 people were arrested Saturday, following the most violent clashes yet between police and protesters in the city. About 2,000 marchers approached the state capitol building Saturday afternoon, and a small group attempted to advance up the building's steps.

About eight officers scuffled with group, and police said they had to use pepper spray and pepper balls to break up the crowd. Protesters said police took their actions too far.

"They are definitely slap happy with their weapons they have no qualms about using it on a peaceful bunch of people and I think that's a shame," one woman involved in the protest told ABC News Radio.

Denver Police Lt. Matt Murray said officers did not want to use force, but the demonstrators gave them no choice.

"We respect their constitutional rights to do what they're doing," he said. "Unfortunately at a certain point they went up on to the State Capitol grounds, in an area that they were told to evacuate, they chose not to do that, we at that point had to step in with the state police in order to push them back off that property."

The clash between police and demonstrators resulted in five arrests, and some people received medical treatment on the scene, Murray said.

Later in the evening, police in riot gear arrested 15 more people who ignored orders to leave an encampment of 10 to 20 tents in a downtown park.

So far today, Denver's Civic Center park is calm. About 100 people slept overnight in the park, although not in tents, after Denver police ordered demonstrators to take them all down Saturday.

Occupy Nashville is in its fourth day of protest, after three consecutive nights squaring off against local police. Despite the cold, demonstrators near Tennessee's capitol building defied a curfew for the third time. By early morning, about 50 people remained, and despite friction with state officials, no one was arrested, unlike during the previous two nights of protest.

Although more than two dozen people have been taken into custody in Nashville so far, not all local officials are on board with the arrests.

A Nashville judge said last week that there's no legal reason to keep the demonstrators behind bars. He has released protesters after every arrest and has refused each night to sign arrest warrants for those taken into custody. The state Department of Safety has been carrying out the arrests.

The Occupy Wall Street protests spread internationally about three weeks ago after starting in New York City's Zucotti Park on Sept. 17.

This weekend, some of them faced a new challenged: bad weather. Record snowfall along the East Coast forced some inside, although others, including in New York City, remained outside with tents and blankets. Occupy Maine made a plea on its Facebook page for reinforcements after the snowfall destroyed many of the group's tents. They point out that this is a good time to start talking about the logistics of occupation, before snowfall becomes a nightly occurence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.