Tents set on fire at the Occupy Denver protester camp. (Enrico Meyer/9NEWS)
PHOTOS: Occupy Denver protesters ousted, tents set on fire
Authorities say they began policing Civic Center Park around 11:30 p.m. and the Denver Post is reporting they moved in after 2 a.m.
"We were in our house, moving our stuff out when we heard they were coming," one Occupier, who declined to be named, said. "We got out as fast as we could and took everything we could get."
Authorities say two of the protesters set their own shelters on fire. They were arrested on arson charges. Others were arrested for failing to obey a police officer's order.
Firefighters say the blazes were extinguished quickly.
On Tuesday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Police Chief Robert White defended the eviction.
"It was a pretty quick operation, simply with the thought that we would remove the encumbrances along the way that blocked the public right of way," Hancock said. "The attempts to stay ahead and to continue to work with them have always been there and will continue to be there, but we simply can't allow structures in the park or blocking public right of way, again creating unsafe condition for them and well as for pedestrians."
White says it will be the obligation of the police department to continue to keep that public right of way unobstructed - specifically, by keeping the Occupy camp off the sidewalks.
"If it goes up today, it goes down today," White said. "We certainly value their First Amendment rights and obviously they can exercise those rights, but we also value the rights of the rest of our citizens and we are certainly concerned about our ordinances and the safety of not just the other citizens, but the citizens that are participating in Occupy Denver. We will have a presence in the park as long as we think is necessary."
On Tuesday, Occupier Ben Meyer said the movement also intends to stay in the park as long as necessary, even if that means more confrontation with police.
"It's too bad that this looks like it is an 'us versus the police' kind of movement," he said. "Right now, that's our focal point because we keep getting raided and raided and raided, and it keeps us in this kind of triage that we keep talking about - First Amendment and police interaction - but regardless of that if that's the way it's gonna have to be, that's the way it's gonna have to be."
White says he will continue to meet with the Occupiers as long as the keep extending him an invitation to their marches and meetings.
Hancock says the Occupy movement has cost the city about $400,000. Comparatively, he says it costs nearly the same amount every year to operate a recreation center and slightly less to operate a library.
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)