Denver Intensifies Sweeps of Unhoused Community and Confiscates Survival Gear; Parade of Rights Rally

Denver, CO – As of November 15th, city-wide sweeps targeting people without housing in Denver have intensified again, under explicit direction from Mayor Hancock. Citing the “Urban Camping Ban“, put into effect by Denver city council in April of 2012, Denver Police officers and Public Works have been forcibly moving people along, confiscating property and survival gear without due process of law, and giving out tickets and written warnings to people on the streets.

According to the camping ban, it is illegal for anyone to sleep or rest on public or private property with anything underneath or over them except the clothing on their bodies.

In addition to the camping ban, Denver has also been citing DRMC Sec. 49-246 which states, “Public streets, alleys, sidewalks, and other public spaces must remain free from all unauthorized encumbrances and obstructions.”

Our video below shows the response of the people without housing in Denver who are expressing their frustration of being forced to move from one place to another. A group of about 30 people who have been living for a few months on the public sidewalk outside the Samaritan House, a homeless shelter, have been strong advocates for the repeal of the camping ban and for truly affordable housing.

Instead of staying out of the public’s eye, which the city appears to prefer based on their enforcement of inhumane laws, this group and others have remained in the open, finding safety and comfort in staying together as a community.

Unicorn Riot also documented several seizures of shelter essential for survival on November 28th, 2016:

Mayor Hancock is defending the sweeps despite a current class action lawsuit against the city for previous sweeps.

From 9 News:

What this lawsuit is, is telling the city, stop. Respect the constitutional right to treat these people with dignity. Stop swapping their dignity in for your chance to make a buck. Which is all this is about” said the group’s attorney, Jason Flores-Williams.

The mayor’s office came under fire earlier this year when exposed for taking donations intended for direct needs of the homeless such as hot meals, housing, and counseling and used them to instead forcefully confiscate and hold the belongings of unhoused people who had not consented to having their possessions taken. The ACLU sent a statement to Mayor Hancock expressing their deep disappointment with “the policing first approach to homelessness that is currently being practiced by the City of Denver.

Photo courtesy of the ACLU and published in Westword:

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On December 2nd, 2016, Unicorn Riot was live to cover The Parade of Rights, an event called for by an individual within the online community We Demand An End to Denver’s Urban Camping [email protected].

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Terese Howard of Denver Homeless Out Loud was able to outline for us the increased sweeps in Denver as the weather consistently drops below freezing every night.

It’s winter in Denver, Colorado, it’s about 20 degree nights these days and our mayor, Mayor Hancock has decided to call for a mass enforcement of the camping ban across the entire city of Denver. So what that looks like is enforcing a law that says you cannot have any protection from the elements other than your clothing. You can’t have a blanket over you, you can’t have a sleeping bag you can’t have a tent, you can have no form of protection from the elements. That’s what the camping ban says and that’s what is being enforced right now over the whole city of Denver.– Terese Howard of Denver Homeless Out Loud

This shit needs to end, people are dying out there.”Ray Lyall, plaintiff in class action lawsuit

Full Interview with Terese and other speakers below:

People dispersed into the Parade of Lights holding signs, with small camp lights attached to their backpacks and some carrying a tent above their heads.

They distributed flyers to educate the public on this inhumane law and how to help. The following text was included on the flyers:

The Parade Of Rights
The temperatures tonight are in the 20’s. Last year, 141 people died in the streets without shelter. Each one of these deaths were the result of Homelessness! This has to end! Help us in our struggle to end the deaths of people experiencing homelessness by standing in solidarity with us.

How you can help:

WE DEMAND AN END TO THE URBAN CAMPING BAN
Tonight we walk in this parade in solidarity with our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness; to tell Mayor Michael Hancock and the City Council we DEMAND AN END TO THE URBAN CAMPING BAN. There are over 10,000 people experience homelessness on any given day in Denver, yet the decisions Mayor Hancock makes directly lead to deaths on the street. They are part of our community. Let’s imagine a city where all of our neighbors, rich and poor, have a place to belong.
For More Information: Contact Denver Homeless out loud
denverhomelessoutloud.org 720-940-5291 [email protected]

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Unicorn Riot will continue coverage on the current targeting of Denver’s unhoused population and will provide updates as they become available.

Previous Unicorn Riot coverage on Denver’s housing crisis:


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