Occupy Denver Responds to the Implementation of the “Urban Camping” Ban

May 28, 2012 in Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Occupy Denver Responds to the Implementation of the “Urban Camping” Ban

While the City of Denver’s implementation of an unjust and shameful ordinance to criminalize homelessness will negatively impact the homeless population, it has also reaffirmed Occupy Denver’s fight for social justice. Although the wealthy and the powerful control our institutions of government, the solidarity and power of this people’s movement will not be deterred. The greed of the 1% resulting in this economic recession has increased the numbers of homeless on our streets and now they are being targeted with criminal sanctions for attempting to survive. Occupy is the future and thus our work continues.

Join us for General Assemblies on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 3 p.m. in Lincoln Park (near the Denver Capitol) and visit occupydenver.org for information about our committees, working groups, direct actions, and on-going campaigns.

Implementation Red Flags: From the moment this ordinance was proposed by Councilman Brooks (District 8), there has been blatant manipulation and deception in the process:

  • The ordinance was assigned to the wrong committee so that it would advance
  • The Mayor’s Commission on Homelessness was bypassed
  • The homeless were not consulted
  • Not a single change to the ordinance was made to address the concerns of Denver-based providers and the large number of speakers who opposed the ordinance
  • Little effort was made to pair resources with the ordinance

The process has been an affront to democracy, transparency and accountability. It became clear early on that promises had been made to the Downtown Denver Partnership that it would pass. To quote Councilwoman Shepherd, “I know the way this vote is going to go. I know it. And I think you all know how this vote is going to go too. And unfortunately, the sad thing about it is that it has been like that from day one.”

Assurances were made over and over again that few arrests would be made, that a Sergeant would have to be called in if an arrest was even considered, and that the purpose of the police stop was to find the correct way and place to assist the homeless person. This would include a bed for as long as needed, mental health counseling, help with addictions and alcoholism, special help for abused women and LGBT people who might face discrimination in some shelter situations. To accomplish all of this, it was said that a system would be devised using United Ways 211 line. Instead, in flyers and at police meetings in the shelters, we are hearing about the homeless not being allowed to eat on the streets, $35.00 court costs, possible one year jail terms and/or a $999.00 fine. All of these issues could have been anticipated, discussed and worked out if the Downtown Denver Partnership was neither so influential nor in such a hurry to push this ordinance through.

Accountability and Future Action: Occupy Denver will carry out its fight for economic justice on at least four fronts. We will: (1) continue to publicly hold accountable Downtown Denver Partnership members who pursued their private interests at the expense of the fulfillment of the basic human needs of our most vulnerable population; (2) continue to publicly hold accountable those City Council members who joined these businesses in this class war, making public policy a vehicle for the private and divisive interests of the wealthy; (3) continue to fight for increased public spending on shelter beds, social services, and affordable housing for the homeless. This will include a campaign to establish a dedicated funding source, for which Councilwoman Kniech has advocated. “For high priorities, we typically institutionalize the funding sources,” said Kniech. “If it is an ongoing high priority, we owe it to all programs to institutionalize the funding,” and (4) monitor the enforcement of this ordinance by the Denver Police Department.

A photograph of the flyers handed out last week by the DPD in Lincoln Park: