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”
Future Anti-Repression March
A Short synopsis of the recent arrests/harassments with the DPD
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”