A SWAT team brought in to evict a 63-year-old woman from her home in Idaho Springs, Colo., ended up clashing with protesters affiliated with Occupy Denver who surrounded the woman's home.
The Clear Creek County Sheriff's Department told KUSA-TV in Denver that the team was called on after reports that one of the two dozen protesters there had a concealed handgun. The officers reportedly showed up to the scene pointing assault rifles at the protesters
"Usually, an eviction doesn't call for a tactical team," Capt. Bruce Snelling said.
The protesters from the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition and Occupy Denver were defending homeowner Sahara Donahue, who had been foreclosed on but refused to leave her home. Occupy Denver said on its website that Donahue had lived at her home for 24 years, and she was asking her lender, reportedly U.S. Bank, to stay for an additional 60 days while she looked for another place to live.
"About 10 vehicles filled with men in what appeared to be full battle gear (and assault weapons already in hand) began to fill the road in front of the house," Occupy Denver said. "With all their firepower and intimidation techniques, they targeted the least imposing person there. They put him face down in the dirt and gravel, and cuffed his hands behind him with their zip-tie cuffs."
Two protesters were detained in the squabble, but no one was arrested or charged with a crime. The reported handgun on one of the protesters turned out to be a BB gun, KUSA-TV reported.
"Obviously, in retrospect, it wasn't an excuse. It's also a poor excuse for them to point assault rifles [at us]," Darren O'Connor, a member of the coalition, told the TV station, saying that the BB gun incident did not call for the SWAT team's reaction.
News of the heated protest quickly spread through the Occupy pipeline, with a reportedly first-hand account of the incident posted on the Occupy D.C. website and others. The protesters also garnered the support of Occupy Our Homes, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street that also stages protests at the homes of distressed borrowers.
That could be a big boon for the coalition's cause. As AOL Real Estate reported, Occupy Our Homes seems to be one of the most successful and influential organizations to spin off of OWS, hiking up its campaigns to fight foreclosure and notching up wins for homeowners facing eviction.
Occupy Denver posted a video of its scrap with the SWAT team on YouTube. The video shows protesters cursing at officers and one protester being detained. Though protesters portrayed the SWAT team as using brute force, Snelling defended their tactics.
"I think our officers handled themselves just fine," he told KASU. "I'll tell you, at the end of the day, we were prepared to meet any resistance that may have come."
Donahue was removed from her home and is reportedly staying with friends.
This is isn't the only case in which a SWAT team was used to remove people occupying foreclosed homes. Last year, a SWAT team gassed a foreclosure in Naples, Fla., to drive out the illegal squatters staying there.