Week Five: Take Action Against Ordinance to Criminalize Homelessness

May 5, 2012 in Press, Video

Last week the proposed Denver city ordinance to criminalize our homeless sisters and brothers had the 1st Reading, public hearings and first vote (final vote will follow on May 14th) before the full city council. It was advanced by a vote of 9 to 4 (Ayes: Brooks, Brown, Faatz, Herdon, Lehmann, Montero, Nevitt, Robb, Susman. No: Kniech, Lopez, Ortega, Shephard). There was a mass sleep-in at The Pavillions on the 16th Street Mall in response to this vote (see video, media and pictures below).

We need to take three critical actions this week. First, we will be having a “snooze-in” at Snooze on Sunday May 6th to protest their support of the ordinance (details below). Next Saturday we will have a picket starting at the Palm Restaurant and a mass sleep-in protest in front of the Downtown Denver Partnership. Second, we need as many people as possible to attend the St. Johns Cathedral forum and the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation meeting. Third, we need to continue to visit, call and email city council members about the ordinance.

Downtown Denver People’s Partnership Protests

“Snooze-in” at Snooze to Protest “Urban Camping Ban.”

The Downtown Denver People’s Partnership including organizations like the Denver Catholic Worker, the Thunderdome and Occupy Denver will conduct a “snooze-in” outside of Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. The Thunderdome will serve pancakes at a people’s pancake picnic.

When: Sunday, May 6th from 9 a.m. to noon
Where: Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, 2262 Larimer Street, Denver, Colorado (map)

This action seeks to highlight the role of Snooze, a member of the Downtown Denver Business Partnership, in pushing an ordinance through the city council that will criminalize the survival act of sleeping by our homeless friends.

Read Full Press Release

Protest at the Palm Restaurant and Other Members of the Downtown Denver Partnership Supporting the Ordinance

When: Saturday, May 12th starting at 6 p.m. Meet at Lincoln Park at 5:30 pm if you want to march past City Hall to the Palm Restaurant.
Where: Palm Restaurant, 1672 Lawrence Street, Denver, CO 80202 (map)

Read Full Press Release

Mass Sleep-in Protest at the Downtown Denver Partnership

The Downtown Denver People’s Partnership including organizations like the Denver Catholic Worker and Occupy Denver will conduct a mass sleep-in outside of the Downtown Denver Partnership to protest their involvement in pushing this ordinance through city council.

When: Saturday, May 12th starting at 8 p.m.
Where: Downtown Denver Partnership, 511 16th Street, Denver, CO 80202 (Between Glenarm Place and Welton Street) (map)

Read Full Press Release

Sleep-in Protests at City and County Building

Bring your sleeping bags and/or blankets for a day-long rally on the City Council steps (City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado 80202). From noon until 5:30 there will be a series of actions and speeches highlighting the injustice of this ordinance. The city and county building will be open to the public, let your voice be heard.

When: Monday, May 14th from Noon to 5:30 pm
Where: City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado 80202

Rally to OPPOSE the “Urban Camping” Ban

When: Monday, May 14th at 4:30 pm
Where: City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado 80202

Attend Meetings This Week

Tuesday, May 8, 7:00 pm – St. John’s Cathedral Forum
1350 Washington St, Denver, CO 80203
Dagwood Hall (Enter Cathedral complex from parking lot, make a right and walk to the end of the hallway. It is the large hall on the right)

From Cathedral Newsletter: “Please join Councilman Albus Brooks of Council District 8, Council At-Large Robin Kniech, and Jeanne Robb of Council District 10 at Saint John’s Cathedral for a forum on the proposed ordinance to prohibit unauthorized camping on public or private property; Bill Request BR12-241. Join us in discussion on how the community and the city can work together toward the shared goals of addressing the needs of the homeless community and creating a welcoming downtown.”

Saturday, May 12, 9:00 am – Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation Meeting
Broadway COP Shop
407 S. Broadway #500, Denver, CO 80209

From the INC website: “The meeting begins at 9:00 am. The Forum will begin at 10:15 a.m. and end at 11:30.  There will an opportunity to ask questions after the discussion.  Representatives from the City Council, Downtown Denver Partnership, Lower Downtown Residents, Ball Park Residents, Occupy Denver, the homeless community and Denver Police are expected to participate.”

Visit, Call and Email City Council Members and the Mayor’s Office

Key resources to share with city council members include: The Homes Not Handcuffs page at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless; Occupy Denver’s Open Letter to Mayor Hancock; Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, a report from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty; and, Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness, a new report from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Report: Mass Sleep-In on 16th Street Mall

The Denver Downtown People‘s Partnership including organizations like the Denver Catholic Worker, the Thunderdome and Occupy Denver conducted an all night sleep-in protest in front of The Pavillions on 16th Street Mall on Tuesday night May 2nd.

Media Coverage:

photo (cc-by-nc-sa) by Kendra Kellogg

photo (cc-by-nc-sa) by Kendra Kellogg

All photographs by Kendra Kellogg

Week Four: Take Action Against Ordinance to Criminalize Homelessness

April 28, 2012 in Press

The last week the proposed Denver city ordinance to criminalize our homeless sisters and brothers was passed out of the Land Use Transportation and Infrastructure committee by a vote of 4 to 3.

We need to take three critical actions this week. First, we need as many people as possible to attend the city meeting about the ordinance. This is the public hearing and you may sign up to speak. Second, we need to continue to visit, call and email city council members about the ordinance. Third, pending the outcome of the April 30th City Council Public Hearing, Occupy Denver may conduct a mass sleep-in on 16th Street Mall after May Day.

Attend City Meetings This Week

Monday, April 30, 5:30 pm – City Council Meeting

Attend this City Council meeting to speak to Council members. This meeting will include a first reading of the ordinance and a two-hour courtesy public hearing (speakers get 3 minutes; sign up at 5:15, first-come-first-served).
City Council Chambers at the City and County Building
1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado 80202.

Visit, Call and Email City Council Members and the Mayor’s Office

Key resources to share with city council members include: The Homes Not Handcuffs page at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless; Occupy Denver’s Open Letter to Mayor Hancock; Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, a report from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty; and, Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness, a new report from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Mass Sleep-In on 16th Street Mall

Pending the outcome of the April 30th City Council Public Hearing, the 1st Reading and first vote (final vote will follow on May 14th), Occupy Denver has endorsed a sleep-in at the Denver Pavilions, 16th Street between Tremont and Welton starting at 9:30 PM on May 1st. Thus far City Council has been placing the interests of the business community over the needs of the least fortunate residents of our city. Bring a sleeping bag or blankets and protest this criminalization of homelessness and the businesses that have lobbied for this ban.

photo (cc-by-nc-sa) by Kendra Kellogg

photo (cc-by-nc-sa) by Kendra Kellogg

Editorial: A needed delay on criminalization

April 23, 2012 in Press, Video

By Working Group on Ordinance Criminalizing Homelessness, Occupy Denver

The editors at the Denver Post are wondering what a month-long delay on an ordinance criminalizing homelessness will accomplish. In a strongly worded letter calling the ban a “hardening of heart towards the poor,” the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) called on city council members to “vote NO on this ordinance so a true discussion on the needs of the homeless can begin.”

We need a true discussion on the needs of the homeless.

There are no short cuts to successfully addressing homelessness in the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. It is a short cut for the editors at the Denver Post to say “the lines have been drawn and it’s pretty clear this issue will remain divisive” so let’s just vote without further discussion. It was a short cut for Mayor Hancock and Councilman Albus Brooks to try to speed an ordinance through city council without proper discussion with the Denver Homeless Commission and the homeless community themselves.

As Dr. Chad Kautzer, philosophy professor at the University of Colorado Denver, recently shared with Councilman Albus Brooks on Occupy Denver’s Facebook Page:

The values informing your ordinance are deeply troubling. You’re responding with punitive measures to vulnerable and marginalized populations that are growing during an economic crisis, rather than with proactive measures that improve services and treat all of our neighbors with respect. Additionally, your sense of urgency clearly relates to the interests of Denver businesses, rather than the desperate condition of the homeless. In short, you have pitted the interests of the most fortunate against the needs of the most vulnerable. This is unacceptable and no amount of facts can right such a wrong.

The Post editorial claims that this “has been portrayed as the product of business interests,” and then attempts to refute this premise, without referencing any outside groups or citizens that are supportive of the ordinance. In reality, overwhelming majorities of residents have packed city council meetings to oppose the ordinance. The Post fails to disclose that it is a member of the Downtown Denver Partnership, the alliance of business interests that has been one of the few groups pushing the urgency of this ordinance. We expect better from our newspaper than to mislead readers by failing to disclose this conflict of interest.

It is unfortunate that The Denver Post would rather stand with their fellow business members of the Downtown Denver Partnership in attempting to criminalize homelessness, than to work towards true solutions for some of our city’s most marginalized persons.

This ordinance has a silver lining: experts and policy makers are now focused on homelessness. Now that people are paying attention, we need to roll up our sleeves and work to eradicate homelessness in a loving and compassionate way and better the futures of those in dire need.

Sending our fellow citizens to jail for struggling in this economy is not the answer. To quote the Bruce Springsteen song, “We take care of our own.”

Week Three: Take Action Against Ordinance to Criminalize Homelessness

April 20, 2012 in Press, Video

The proposed Denver city ordinance to criminalize our homeless sisters and brothers has been discussed by the Land Use Transportation and Infrastructure and Health, Safety, Education & Services Committees (watch video summary below). The ordinance was also discussed by the Denver Homeless Commission (see media coverage below). There are two meetings this week about the ordinance, the Mayor-Council Meeting and the Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

We need to take two critical actions this week. First, we need as many people as possible to attend the city meetings about the ordinance. Second, we need to continue to visit, call and email city council members about the ordinance.

Attend City Meetings This Week

Tuesday, April 24, 9:30 am – Mayor-Council Meeting, City Council will meet with the Mayor
Room 389, City and County Building
1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado, 80202

Tuesday, April 24, 10:30 am – Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, action item and vote (Agenda)
Room 391, City and County Building
1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado, 80202

Visit, Call and Email City Council Members and the Mayor’s Office

Key resources to share with city council members include: The Homes Not Handcuffs page at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless; Occupy Denver’s Open Letter to Mayor Hancock; Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, a report from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty; and, Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness, a new report from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The Facts: Denver’s Proposed “Urban Camping Ban” Ordinance

If you missed the first two city hearings, here is a short video from experts and policy makers that will arm you with the facts! Please share this with your family and friends in Denver.

Denver Homeless Commission: “Why were we not consulted?”

Members of the Denver Homeless Commission are appointed by Mayor Hancock to participate in a community-wide effort to develop a ten year plan to end homelessness in the City and County of Denver and to help oversee the implementation of such a plan.

The Denver Post reports:

Denver’s Commission on Homelessness on Thursday rebuffed the mayor and asked the City Council to delay any action on a proposed homeless camping ban for at least a month so its impacts could be discussed.

The commission’s request could delay the proposed law’s introduction to the City Council next week and a final vote scheduled for May 7.

“If we are just going to focus on the governance piece, and it moves forward without people having this discussion, then people are going to question, ‘Why am I even on this board?’ ” said Debbie Ortega, a councilwoman and commission member. “It is to ensure we have a balanced discussion … between the business interests and addressing the human side of the issue.”

“We are not looking through rose-colored glasses,” Hancock said. “We know there is a shortage of resources. I believe what this ordinance will do is help us focus even more sharply on helping develop those resources.”

But homeless advocates say the resources should come before the law.

Read full article at the Denver Post.

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP): “Consider a more constructive approach”

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) sent a letter to Mayor Hancock saying that, “The proposed ordinance criminalizes homelessness by targeting homeless people and punishing them for sleeping in public.”

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) is the legal arm of the national movement to end homelessness. We write to express our opposition to the proposed anti-camping ordinance currently under consideration by the Committee on Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure, which would effectively ban outdoor sleeping throughout Denver. Measures that criminalize homelessness violate the civil and human rights of homeless citizens, perpetuate homelessness, and impose financial burdens on local governments. We urge you to oppose this proposed ordinance.

The proposed ordinance criminalizes homelessness by targeting homeless people and punishing them for sleeping in public – despite data indicating that Denver has more homeless persons than available shelter beds. Current estimates show that, on any given night, there are approximately 200 more homeless people in need of shelter than there are shelter beds. Without available shelter space, homeless persons will have no choice but to sleep outdoors in violation of the law.

NLCHP letter (pdf)

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – CO: “Vote NO so a true discussion can begin”

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – CO represents the voice of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in response to issues of hunger and poverty within Colorado.  While specifically dealing with statewide policy and rulemaking, the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – CO Policy Board felt it was important to weigh in on the issue of the proposed city-wide ordinance to prohibit unauthorized camping in Denver as to the impact it would have throughout the Denver Metro area.

The ban on camping is an attack on the homeless in our community, and flies in the face of the command of God in Deuteronomy: Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

God calls on ALL of us, Christian or Jew, Businessperson or City Councilmember, Rich or Poor, to care for those in need. This proposed ban is a “hardening of the heart” as it is clear that the city of Denver does not currently have the shelter beds, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, affordable housing or living wage jobs to adequately deal with the issue. But instead of City Council addressing these issues, the hand is being closed to our poor brothers and sisters who will become a criminal simply for being who they are, homeless.

LAM letter (pdf)

Denver Catholic Worker: “The only solution is love”

The Denver Catholic Worker wrote Councilman Albus Brooks about the proposed ordinance to criminalize homelessness. They are located in his district.

We believe that the answer to homelessness lies not in legislation, coercive authority, or in criminalizing behavior. In the words of one of the founders of our movement, Dorothy Day, “The only solution is love.” What we mean is, that the only solution to homelessness, or other forms of poverty in our society, is human relationships; people being led by compassion to take personal responsibility for other people’s well being. We have a house, with extra bedrooms, so we have taken it upon ourselves to lend these rooms out to folks that don’t have any where else to go. These are probably the same poor people you see on your way into work everyday. We don’t get any government money for doing our work, and our reward is human relationships, and love shared through the time we spend with these people. We believe that this is an example of what other people can do. But we often fail to live up to the mission of our work, to serve these people as Christ, and perhaps our most common failure is that we don’t speak up for these people, or speak out against the injustices in the system that has caused much of their suffering.

One of our former guests reminded us that there needed to be more houses like ours. He said our house was the only place he stayed, during the entire time he was homeless, where he was treated with dignity. The homeless of Denver suffer not only houselessness, but also daily life of being treated without dignity, and these conditions are increasingly harder for people who are undocumented, transgendered or queer, females, minorities and those who have mental illnesses. As funding for shelters and housing is cut, and we continue to get more requests for help than we are able to respond to, the need for more people to help each other out on a relational level is obvious.

Denver Catholic Worker letter (pdf)

Additional statements against this ordinance can be found on our “Week Two” campaign page.

 

Working Group on Ordinance Criminalizing Homelessness, Occupy Denver

Week Two: Take Action Against Ordinance to Criminalize Homelessness

April 14, 2012 in Press

The proposed Denver city ordinance to criminalize our homeless sisters and brothers is now making its way through various meetings at the city. There are two meetings this week about the ordinance at the Health, Safety, Education & Services Committee and the Commission on Homelessness. Occupy Denver has formally requested time to speak at both meetings.

We need to take two critical actions this week. First, we need as many people as possible to attend the city meetings about the ordinance. Second, we need to continue to visit, call and email city council members about the ordinance.

Attend City Meetings This Week

Tuesday, April 17, 1:30 pm – Health, Safety, Education & Services Committee (Agenda)
Room 391, City and County Building
1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado 80202

Thursday, April 19, 3:30 pm – Denver Homeless Commission
Parr-Widener Community Room, City and County Building
1437 Bannock St, Denver, Colorado 80202

Members of the Denver Homeless Commission are appointed by Mayor Hancock to participate in a community-wide effort to develop a ten year plan to end homelessness in the City and County of Denver and to help oversee the implementation of such a plan.

Visit, Call and Email City Council Members and the Mayor’s Office

Key resources to share with city council members include: The Homes Not Handcuffs page at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless; Occupy Denver’s Open Letter to Mayor Hancock; Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, a report from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty; and, Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness, a new report from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Dr. Cornel West: “Don’t Let This Happen in Denver.”

Dr. Cornel West was the keynote speaker at the University of Colorado Denver’s Art of Social Justice Conference on Thursday, April 12th. He opened his speech to overflow crowds condemning the proposed Denver city ordinance criminalizing homelessness. “We are in the midst of a deep democratic movement that includes solidarity with the homeless, with our brothers and sisters who are homeless.” Dr. West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton University.

ACLU: “Ordinance Inhumane”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado wrote a letter on April 16th to the Denver City Council and Mayor’s Office.

The ACLU of Colorado finds the Ordinance mean spirited. Simply put, the Ordinance criminalizes homelessness in open view. Arguments to the contrary are simply false and statements to the effect that the Ordinance does “not endorse arrests” ignore the plain language of the Ordinance. The ordinance clearly provides for enforcement through citations and arrest…

Since the recession in 2007, family homelessness nationwide has increased 20%. In Denver, the percentage of homeless families has increased 9% since 2009. Almost one-forth of Denver’s homeless are newly homeless…

Also troubling is rhetoric to the effect that the City will provide additional beds “after” the Ordinance is passed. When asked for specifics on this point, Councilman Albus Brooks has said that Crossroads and the Salvation Army will provide additional beds. This statement is disingenuous. Crossroads and the Salvation Army close their beds on April 30. The City will simply allow them to stay open through the summer and perhaps longer. This is not providing additional beds to meet an additional need. This is simply allowing those already in those beds to stay a little longer.

The Ordinance is also inhumane in that it makes it unlawful to sleep with something as minimal as a blanket or a sleeping bag. Thus, one risks citation and arrest for sleeping in public with any protection to guard against the elements.

ACLU Letter (pdf)

Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation: “Delay Vote, Listen to Denver Citizens”

The Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC) addressed the proposed ordinance on April 14th and asked the City Council to postpone a vote until after the INC’s May 12 meeting where it proposed to sponsor a thorough public hearing.

Whereas, The Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC) believes that the City Council ordinance proposing to ban unauthorized camping has significant implications to the citizens and neighborhoods of Denver, and

Whereas, the impacts and ramifications of the ordinance on individuals and neighborhoods has not been fully explored by Denver citizens, and

Whereas, alternatives whereby individuals directly affected by the ordinance have not been developed or are not known to Denver citizens,

Now therefore, be it resolved that INC respectfully asks Denver City Council to postpone a vote on the ordinance banning unauthorized camping on property in the City and County of Denver until such time as adequate, additional public meetings have been held to inform and educate Denver citizens including homeless people, as to the details of the ordinance being established. INC specifically proposes to hold a thorough forum on the subject at the May 12th delegate meeting, wherein all parties, including homeless people be invited, a balanced presentation will be made before all Registered Neighborhood Organizations present and where delegates will have the chance to learn and ask meaningful questions.”

Press Release (pdf)

Watch: Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Ordinance Meeting

If you missed the Tuesday, April 3rd Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee meeting about the ordinance, you may watch it here.

There have been many attempts to criminalize homelessness in the United States and the rhetoric defending these attempts is often the same. Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D. wrote an essay titled “Patterns of exclusion: sanitizing space, criminalizing homelessness” that provides an important critique of the ideas used to criminalize homelessness.

Dr. Amster teaches Peace Studies and is Chair of the Master’s Program in Humanities at Prescott College and also serves as the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. He authored the work Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB Scholarly 2008).

Amster led an effort to overturn an ordinance making it a criminal offense to sit on the local sidewalks in Temple, AZ. He argued the case before a Federal Judge and won an injunction against enforcement of the law before it was overturned on appeal. Amster organized “sit-in” demonstrations against the ordinance, which he argued was aimed primarily at the local homeless population. He also helped to spearhead a successful campaign to preserve one of the last remaining open spaces in downtown Temple.

Working Group on Ordinance Criminalizing Homelessness, Occupy Denver

Open Letter to Mayor Hancock About the “Urban Camping Ban”

April 7, 2012 in Press

To take action on this issue, please see our other posts:
- Week Five: Take Action Against Ordinance to Criminalize Homelessness << NEW!
- Week Four: Take Action Against Ordinance to Criminalize Homelessness
- Week Three: Take Action Against Ordinance to Criminalize Homelessness


Dear Mayor Hancock,

We are responding to your letter dated April 2 about the proposed “urban camping” ban. We are sorry to learn about your experience of homelessness as a child. We have heard the stories of our homeless sisters and brothers who have gathered with us and we know how painful life can be for them. Undoubtedly your experience will help you shape a thoughtful and compassionate response to this ordinance.

As we read your letter, we noticed that it failed to mention two critical realities:

First, the letter made no mention of the fact that we’re in the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. According to the Homelessness in the Denver Metropolitan Area – 2011 Point in Time Study, there are now 11,377 homeless men, women, and children in Denver. Unemployment and housing costs are the two major reasons for homelessness.

Second, the letter made no mention of the fact that experts on homelessness in Denver believe the city does not have the funding or the infrastructure to implement the “urban camping ban.”

  • John Parvensky, President of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, told the Denver Post “that funding for services and homeless shelters has been slashed.” Parvensky attended Tuesday’s April 3rd ordinance hearing and spoke of the impact of funding cuts: “At the coalition we have 2,000 people who are mentally ill and homeless, who are on a waiting list for services. Yet we can’t serve them, because we don’t have the ability to provide those services.”
  • Bennie Milliner, Executive Director for Denver’s Road Home, told the Denver Westword that even if the city doubled its current shelter capacity, it would still not reach the necessary number.

Denver’s Road Home draft response plan to the “urban camping ban” demonstrates that the city is far from ready to implement this ordinance: “In general, community partners and service providers are stretched to capacity. We have very limited capacity for mental health resources especially. The National Alliance to End Homelessness is conducting a Shelter Review with a final report expected June 1, 2012 which will identify shelter specific needs.”

The lack of funding and infrastructure to implement the “urban camping ban” will lead to the criminalization of our homeless by council fiat. In a city struggling to better identify and overcome police brutality, it is difficult to see how our homeless sisters and brothers will be protected from “unjust treatment” and “punitive action.”

Mayor Hancock, as our elected representative, we at Occupy Denver call on you to do the following:

1. Listen to the citizens of Denver, the 99%

One of the most troubling things in your letter is the suggestion that this ordinance is a done deal: “We are also hard at work to ensure our 1,400 police officers are well-trained to implement this ordinance with the right goal in mind: getting people to the services they need.” Albus Brooks, the council member putting this ordinance forward, told several Occupy Denver activists on March 23rd that he had already secured the votes to pass the ordinance. He clearly stated that regardless of positive alternatives proposed, which he invited us to submit, that he would still push forward with criminalizing our homeless sisters and brothers. It is hard to see how input from the citizens of Denver can have any meaningful impact if this ordinance is a foregone conclusion.

2. Place social justice ahead of economic privilege

So often we see our elected representatives pander to corporate interests to protect campaign funding. Corporate and business interests in Denver coalesce in the Downtown Denver Partnership, an organization that believes our homeless “will drive future conventions, tourists, residents and businesses from downtown.” The opportunity to obtain funds for campaigns and city services from corporations represented by the partnership should not tempt politicians away from their duty to serve and protect our homeless. At Tuesday’s April 3rd ordinance hearing, President & CEO Tamara Door represented the partnership’s view of our homeless sisters and brothers, saying: “It’s impacting businesses and the perception of our communities.” We at Occupy Denver call on you to place social justice ahead of economic privilege.

3. Follow the lead of other cities and pursue justice-based alternatives to the criminalization of our homeless

Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, a new report from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty provides many alternatives to the criminalization of homelessness.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • Instead of criminalizing homelessness, local governments, business groups, and law enforcement officials should work with homeless people, providers, and advocates for solutions to prevent and end homelessness.
  • Cities should dedicate more resources to creating more affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, emergency shelters, and homeless services in general. To address street homelessness, cities should adopt or dedicate more resources to outreach programs, emergency shelter, and permanent supportive housing.
  • Business groups can play a positive role in helping to address the issue of homelessness. Instead of advocating for criminalization measures, business groups can put resources into solutions to homelessness.
  • When cities work with homeless persons and advocate for solutions to homelessness, instead of punishing those who are homeless or poor, everyone benefits.

Mayor Hancock, we at Occupy Denver call on you and the City Council to defeat this ordinance. As residents of Denver, we want to be proud to live in a compassionate city.

Sincerely,

Occupy Denver General Assembly
Unanimously Approved on April 7, 2012

Media Coverage:


Watch a video reading of the open letter to Mayor Hancock.

Occupy Denver Opposes Further Criminalizing Homelessness

March 30, 2012 in Press

On Friday, March 30, 2012 over 50 concerned citizens met and discussed ways we can Take Action to Stop this Proposed Ordinance.

Stop the ban on “urban camping”

Right now, Denver’s City Council is considering a new ordinance being put forward by Councilman Albus Brooks that will “ban urban camping” in the city. The proposed ban would include sleeping in alleys, doorways, parks, on sidewalks, or any place our homeless sisters and brothers have traditionally used to seek refuge and rest at night. This ordinance would disproportionately affect the poor of our community and further jeopardize the already vulnerable homeless population by making it illegal to sleep on any public or private property – that is, absolutely anywhere – in Denver’s city limits, even if they have nowhere else to go. It is more legislation in a long line of punitive measures being taken against a population that is at the extreme of the economic disparity and injustice and has been most affected by the economic recession.

What Occupy Denver Is Doing About It

Occupy Denver is mounting an effort to stop this inhumane piece of legislation. We are networking with homeless advocates, organizations, the homeless and others from the public to stand up and fight for the homeless. Sleeping is a human need, and this ordinance criminalizes all those who do not have the privilege of having a house in which to sleep. If you stand against this ordinance, we encourage you to collaborate with us in stopping this ban. Check the website for updates, or email general@occupydenver.org for meeting information.

Occupy Denver is calling on everyone who opposes this ordinance to call City Council members, Congresspeople, Colorado Senators and let them know how this ordinance would devastatingly affect the people of Denver.

If city council fails to see the catastrophe of this proposed ban on “urban camping” in the early stages of the process, Occupy Denver will heighten our voice in protest until they can hear that the people of Denver refuse to let the monied interests further marginalize those with the least.

Detailed information about this inhumane ordinance can be found on the Housing Not Handcuffs section of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless website.

Occupy Denver’s Position on the Proposed Ban

The Occupy Movement grew in response to the growing economic disparity in this country. Occupy Denver stands in solidarity with all victims of economic injustice, especially the homeless. A great deal of the Occupy Denver community has been affected by homelessness, and this ordinance directly affects our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate.

Though those backing this ordinance have not yet said so out right, this ordinance is also directed at the Occupy movement itself. This is yet another attempt to silence the protest of the people against the growing economic disparity and overt influence of money in politics.

A ban on sleeping in public spaces perpetuates the disappearance of the commons and the first amendment right to freedom of assembly. The public space we have in which to gather and live – space open for all people, not owned by private interests – would be further lost to the monied interests of the city by closing down our very sidewalks and alleys to the most basic human activity – sleep. Occupy Denver refuses to let the commons disappear. In the face of systematic oppression of those with little by those with much, we reclaim public space as the people’s.

While this ordinance would affect the 6 month long standing protest and occupation at Civic Center and Lincoln Park – and the freedom of protest and assembly, our unwavering opposition to this ordinance is based in the counter intuitive and mean spirited idea that those without a house should be penalized for sleeping outside in the only places they can. As many within the community of Occupy Denver have no house to go to at night, stopping this ordinance is not just a weekend protest, it is a deeply personal need.

Osage, a Marine veteran, volunteer with Denver’s Road Home, and participant in Occupy Denver states his opposition, “Don’t ban urban camping. Help put veterans in apartments and homes. We have the empty houses. Get them the health care and mental health care that they need. Just make sure that they are okay. ”

Dangers of this Ordinance

The effects of this ordinance will be devastating for the homeless community. It opens the door to heightened police brutality – already an enormous, long-standing issue in Denver – which will lead to increased tensions between the homeless and the police. It will effectively make being homeless in Denver illegal. Making the real situation of the homeless – lacking a place to sleep indoors – a police issue, and will perpetuate the stereotype that all homeless people are criminals, drug users, or violent. As Benjamin, a houseless youth and organizer with Occupy Denver explains, “Homelessness is not a crime. The urban camping ban will devastate communities that choose to sleep in safe public spaces over staying in jail, dangerous shelters or risking it in hidden dark corners. Women and youth should not have to choose between police harassment or unsafe areas.”

This ordinance will also jeopardize the comprehensive review of Denver’s homeless shelters by adding extra burden to their already strained infrastructure. The city of Denver must respond to the economic crisis with positive solutions that respect the inherent dignity of each community member. Real solutions are possible if the city of Denver addresses its challenges with a vision of inclusive community. Homelessness is most effectively addressed by increasing affordable housing and supportive housing opportunities.

Stand for Social Justice over Economic Privilege

This ordinance is another clear example of our government putting the interests of big businesses – many of which are not even based in Colorado – over those of the economically disenfranchised and about putting economic privilege ahead of social justice. The City Council represents the public – and the man sleeping in an alley is as much a member of the public as the million-dollar business. And despite the fact that there are many more homeless members of the public than million-dollar businesses, the City Council is pushing the homeless out of the city to satisfy the monied interests of downtown Denver. This is a travesty for which we will not stand.

As a movement seeking a world where the well being of people is respected over the profits of a few, Occupy Denver urges you to speak out in opposition to this ban on “urban camping.” Come join us in our effort to stop this ban!

Council People to Call

Mayor – Michael B. Hancock. (720) 865-9011, MileHighMayor@denvergov.org

At Large – Robin Kniech, (720) 337-7712, KniechatLarge@denvergov.org
At Large – Deborah Ortega, (720) 337-7713, Deborah.Ortega@denvergov.org

District 1 – Susan K. Shepherd, (720) 337-7701, Susan.Shepherd@denvergov.org
District 2 – Jeanne Faatz, (720) 337-2222, Jeanne.Faatz@denvergov.org
District 3 – Paul D. Lopez, (720) 337-3333, Paul.Lopez@denvergov.org
District 4 – Peggy Lehmann, (720) 337-4444, Peggy.Lehmann@denvergov.org (Council President Pro Tem)
District 5 – Mary Beth Susman, (720) 337-5555, Marybeth.Susman@denvergpv.org
District 6 – Charlie Brown, (720) 337 6666, Charlie.Brown@denvergov.org
District 7 – Chris Nevitt, (720) 337-7777, Chris.Nevitt@denvergov.org (Council President)
District 8 – Albus Brooks, (720) 337-8888, Albus.Brooks@denvergov.org
District 9 – Judy H. Montero, (720) 337-7709, Judy.Montero@denvergov.org
District 10 – Jeanne Robb, (720) 337-7710, Jeanne.Rob@denvergov.org
District 11 – Christopher Herndon, (720) 337-7711, Christopher.Herndon@denvergov.org

Denver’s American Spring

March 21, 2012 in Press

As the winter of discontent blossoms into the American Spring Occupy Denver is on top of the world and ready to meet the challenges that the Occupy Wall Street movement faces locally and nationally. Over the past few weeks enemies of the occupation have done their best to repress the Occupy Wall Street movement in the Denver area. During this time resilient brothers and sisters of Occupy Denver have stood their ground ever resistant against the oppression of the State. While some may see the targeting and imprisonment of our brothers and sisters on The Row combined with the fenced eviction from Civic Center Park as harsh blows to Occupy Denver most do not. Many in fact are standing as defiantly as ever with fists raised high ready to greet this new phase of the occupation with much zeal. Even as you read these words know that plans are being laid for the freeing of our imprisoned comrades, continuing the occupation, and protesting loud and clear to make our grievances known to the 1%.

Though Occupy Denver has temporarily lost parts of Civic Center Park due to lawn maintenance a renewed camp on the Capitol side of Civic Center Park has arisen. Located across Broadway from the winter occupation there is a prime strip of land ready for Denver’s American Spring. Signs are being held and the people are gathering. Already The Row has broken ground and made camp. The forecast is for beautiful weather this weekend so create a sign, grab your sleeping bag and come on down to join the occupation. If an overnight isn’t an option for you feel free to swing by any time to join in as you may. To facilitate this weekend’s occupation donations of warm food, warm blankets, and warm smiles for the occupiers are very welcome.

Besides occupation Occupy Denver has many other events planned this week to get involved in.

The Citizens Oversight Board Meeting is Thursday, March 22, 2012 at Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios, 2949 N. Federal Blvd at 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM. Occupy Denver is attending this meetings so we may civilly and respectfully express grievances to the C.O.B. concerning excessive use of force and repression of the occupation by the City of Denver and its Police force. Click here for more event details.

On Saturday, March 24, Occupy Denver is having a Peace and Non-Violence Teach In and a march against police brutality. The Peace & Nonviolence Teach In begins at 11 AM, at Civic Center Park, with march planning occurring at noon and getting underway around 12:45 PM. Click here for more event details.

Also on Saturday, March 24, the Occupy Denver Outreach Committee is hosting a fund raising event at Hamburger Mary’s in order to raise money for an Occupy Float in the Pride Parade. This event will be held at 7:00pm at Hamburger Mary’s, 700 E 17th Ave, Denver, CO. Click here for more event details.

Of course there are also regular General Assemblies and Spokes Council meetings occurring too. Everyone is encouraged to join in the General Assemblies being held on Tuesday nights at 7:00pm and Saturdays at 3:00pm in Civic Center Park. Spokes Council meetings are Thursday nights at 7:00pm in Civic Center Park. General Assemblies and Spokes Council meetings are the doorway for the public to join in the participatory democratic processes that organize and shape Occupy Denver. All are welcome to attend and participate.

The American Spring is upon us brothers and sisters. It is time to unite together as a community in the bright spring sun and show those who would oppress us just how ready and able we are to meet the challenges at hand to ensure the continued local occupation. There has been much talk lately of many people getting their camping gear ready for occupying Civic Center Park this weekend. Fence be damned. Full steam ahead. Occupy Denver encourages you all to consider occupying Civic Center Park this weekend for as much or as little time as you may. Don’t forget to join in the events on Thursday and Saturday day and evening. This is the beginning of the American Spring Denver, so let’s act like it is and give the 1% a Spring that may never be forgot. #SOLIDARITY!

Incidents at Civic Center Park on March 15

March 15, 2012 in Press

It is a shared sentiment among Occupy Denver that police efforts, including but not limited to, sending in mass amounts of police for petty offenses, concocting false felonies on Occupiers, and using informants and provocateurs to incite and create problems where there would otherwise be none, are being increased in order to systematically and purposely attempt to stamp out the movement. This is a brief synopsis of the events that transpired in and around Civic Center Park on Thursday March 15. There are still many questions surrounding the days incidents.

First Incident:
According to trusted sources that choose to remain anonymous, the persons involved with bringing an unspecified amount of marijuana to Civic Center Park this morning were NOT with Occupy Denver and were using the marijuana for personal affairs. They were charged with possession of less than two ounces. All of the arrested were released later in that afternoon with misdemeanor charges.
25 police arrived including 10 SWAT members, as well as media arrived in synch almost immediately at the park.
Police maintained a barrier between Occupiers and the media to ensure only one side was told.
Why was it necessary to have dozens of officers and members of the SWAT team and local media to cover a petty marijuana bust?

Second Incident:

Denver Police Unjustly Harass and Arrest Occupiers from Tanner Spendley on Vimeo.

Around 8 p.m. an additional 4 occupiers were arrested near the bus station at the corner of Colfax and Broadway.
As of approximately midnight on March 16th 2012, the only information
Occupy Denver has received from the Denver Police Department is that
Kenny White, Caryn Sodaro, Daniel Newmann, James Stacy have been arrested.
As of currently they are being charged with robbery, each accompanied with a $10k bond. James Stacy is being charged with both a failure to appear ($130) and aggravated robbery ($50k bond).

Occupy Denver was given first hand account information from one Occupier that during the course of police actions:

“When I approached all three were being arrested without any proper answers from police officers despite frequent questioning of events. I asked and was told that charges were not public information and could not be shared.
After all three were placed into the car, they pointed out Caryn Sodaro whom was silent and peacefully observing on the steps of the Bus Station, immediately seven police officers barged up the steps and began to push people aside that were between them, including myself. They then preceded to grab her and rush her away without any information on why.
Shortly after Caryn Sodaro’s arrest I voiced many words of dissent. One of the police responded to me by stating ‘Take a shot at me then’. “
The Denver Police have targeted Caryn Sodaro in the past and she was arrested while merely witnessing the arrests from a distance.

Third Incident:

Police arrested a homeless man, Michael Seymour, for allegedly having a knife in his possesion around the grounds of Civic Center Park and Lincoln park. He was charged with Robbery, which carries a 10k bond.
Occupy Denver was offered this eye witness account of the incident from a man whom had been there:

Explanation of DPD randomly arresting houseless man sitting at a bus station. from Tanner Spendley on Vimeo.

Notice, that the accounts of what the Denver Police Department’s arresting officers initially claimed to be arresting Seymour for, and what he was eventually charged with are in wide difference. To similar end, this all came after 4 occupiers were arrested not 15 minutes before.

Shortly after the cops placed him in the car they formed a barrier of roughly twenty-five feet with ten police officers between the cruiser that Michael had been placed in and the protesters. The police then proceeded to threaten to mace anyone that came near the car.
Then a police officer approached an Occupier to within a foot of distance and yelled at an Occupier to ‘Hit Me’ and when the Occupier did not attack, proceeded to call the protester a ‘Pussy’.

Occupy Denver is currently looking further into information regarding the incident.

Over the past three weeks the Denver police department as well as several other agencies have stepped up their harassment of occupiers, especially those who are houseless. They have taken it beyond just arresting those associated with Occupy Denver, they are trying to create an atmosphere of fear at Civic Center Park. They know our numbers will grow as Spring arrives and they are doing what they can to scare people away and silence dissent.
“I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.” -Thomas Jefferson
Since that first quote didn’t come to fruition this other quote from him might be more fitting “Every generation needs a new revolution.”

More “Urine Bombs” From The Denver Post – This Time “Scabies”

March 13, 2012 in Press

March 12 – 2012

At 1:30 pm approximately 20 police officers appeared at Civic Center Park and began removing personal effects of the people who sleep there. Amidst essential tarps and blankets they took crucial medications for conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes as well as various individuals’ legal identification papers. All items were thrown indiscriminately into a public works disposal truck. The police informed everyone in the surrounding area that they could reclaim their belongings within 30 days. The officers did not say where or how and left without responding to further questions such as how the property would be identified or reclaimed without their identification papers. The police refused to provide any information on how these individuals could reclaim their personal property.

According to Lieutenant Matthew Murray of media relations for the Denver Police Department, the Department of Public Works is requesting enforcements for the city ordinances, encouraging the DPD to respond to violations that DPW see as detrimental to the city.
From the Public Works’ website (denvergov.org/dpw) “Our responsibilities include all – year-round road maintenance and repair, weekly household trash collection service to 163,000 households, design and construction management of streets, bridges, and public buildings, transportation services through our parking management, transportation planning, engineering and operations offices, and protection of our urban environment.“

Public works is known for creating the DRMC sec. 49-296 “Encumbrance law” which defines any “thing whatsoever” as an “encumbrance”. (See the end of the article for the full notice of this law.)

At 4:20pm members of Occupy Denver held an impromptu meeting with the Dept of Public Works for clarification as to why they are sending police to enforce city municipal ordinances on such an extreme scale.

What was ascertained is that Public Works is concerned with perceived health risks and how community members view a zone of their city, over the actual health, safety and human rights of individuals.

They consistently stated that the area is a health hazard to every ordinary citizen that walks by via the simple “threat” of a single person alleged to have scabies.

Furthermore, Public Works was unaware at the time of the meeting that the person detained was actually treated 3 weeks prior and declared free and clear of scabies. This person was treated once again while detained and evaluated by the head of infirmary at the Denver General and again declared free and clear of scabies. All of this was documented prior to the raid on March 12th. It was later determined that the individual had brought up the previous case of scabies while being questioned by police out of fear of being harassed and brutalized based on previous direct targeting. On speaking with this individual after the event, it was clear their embarrassment at making this false statement and remorse at how it has caused this misconception about the Occupiers and homeless staying at the park.

There are no current known cases of scabies among the Occupiers and homeless staying at the park. It is not a concern among the Occupiers on the whole and the movement will continue with full support of Civic Center Park.

And it should be pointed out, that even if there were cases of scabies, the methods of treatment being employed by the DPW/DPD are not viable and do not seem to even follow any logical recourse. Scabies is a “contagious parasitic disease” in their words.

The disease can be treated by topically applied or oral medication. Public Works and the DPD’s method of “treatment” is to show up at unspecified times without prior warning, remove any attended items the DPD deem not in personal rights of present individuals and throw them away, then power wash the sidewalks.

None of these methods they are employing actually treat scabies.

So the question comes up, why would the public be concerned about scabies when the one alleged case was non-existent? The Denver Post released an article about the event that day within the hour. They have yet to revise the article to clarify that the individual did not actually have scabies. The article was designed to scare the public, sensationalize any media regarding Occupy, and further alienate the homeless.

Denver Post has a history of reporting inaccurate information in relation to protestors. In an article about an anti-police march in February of this year, the Denver Post reported that protesters were throwing “urine-filled water balloons” which was later refuted by the DPD themselves. However the damage was done. This information was repeated on the internet and cited as a negative Occupy tactic even though this march was not put on by Occupy and Westword later posted an article correcting the misinformation by citing that the DPD confirmed there were no urine filled balloons.

A question that remains is who guides Public Works to sanitize public right of ways? Do they independently dictate to the DPD or are they taking overall direction from a higher power such as the Office of the Mayor? It seems overwhelmingly likely given it alleviates all three of these entities’ agendas. Public Work’s autonomy to request enforcement from the DPD without higher guidance is unrealistic at best and encroaches a misuse of power at worst.

At the meeting with DPW the members of Occupy Denver requested that DPW provide a consistent weekly timetable well in advance of the sidewalk cleanings, in order to sufficiently be able to move protestors’ belongings that are crucial to their health and well being, while also allowing the city to clean the sidewalks.

If DPW is unable to comply with this simple and logical request it will be clear that their motives are not consistent and their statements tantamount to rhetoric.

It should be recognized however that it requires a lot less effort to just leave us alone.

Correction from Westword regarding Denver Post’s “Urine-filled water balloons”

http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2012/02/fuck_the_police_march_arrests_photos.php

Future Anti-Repression March

http://occupydenver.org/antirepressionmarch/

A Short synopsis of the recent arrests/harassments with the DPD

http://occupydenver.org/dpd-protecting-and-serving/

Following is a previous notice given out to the Occupation site on November 11th :

“It is illegal to place any encumbrance on the public right of way. An encumbrance is defined as “any article, vehicle or thing whatsoever” which is on “any street, alley, sidewalk, parkway or other public way or place.” D.R.M.C. 49-246 et. seq. The manager of Public works may order all encumbrances in the public right-of-way to be removed. The failure to remove items so ordered is a criminal offense; the maximum possible penalty for which is up to one year in the county jail and/or up to $999 fine.

PLEASE REMOVE ALL PERSONAL ITEMS FROM THIS AREA.

If personal items are not removed immediately, you may be subject to an order of removal at which time all items will be subject to removal by the Denver Police Department.

Agency- Denver Police Department”