Denver police were caught on video (below) Nov. 28 taking blankets away from a homeless man in frigid temperatures.
Kayvan Soorena Tyler Khalatbari-Limaki posted the video on his Facebook page with this caption: "'We are taking your tent and sleeping bag as evidence of a crime.' - Denver police officer 'doing his job' under the directive of Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Albus Brooks: Denver City Council President. To a VETERAN."
The video went viral, and civil rights groups and lawyers threatened to hit the city with a lawsuit, which prompted Hancock to announce Dec. 10 that the police would no longer be taking blankets and tents away from the homeless, noted The Denver Post:
As a city, we have a responsibility and moral obligation to protect the lives of our residents. Urban camping — especially during cold, wet weather — is dangerous and we don’t want to see any lives lost on the streets when there are safe, warm places available for people to sleep at night.
Every step we take is intended to connect people with safe and warm places and critical supportive services. We never intended to take the belongings that people need to keep warm.
"I told [the city] if they didn’t stand down … we would be in federal court first thing Monday morning," David Lane, a civil rights attorney, told the newspaper.
The city still plans to cite homeless people for violating an urban camping ban, which could mean a fine of $999 for the poorest of the poor. Normally, when people don't pay city fines, they end up in jail at taxpayer expense. People with criminal records often have a harder time finding a job.
Denver Homeless Out Loud, an advocacy group for homeless people, stated on its website:
This does not overturn the camping ban or even suspend it for the winter. This does not stop police from forcing people to "move along," take down tents, or give tickets for the camping ban. This does not stop police and public works from conducting sweeps where they come through and take people’s property while claiming it to be an "encumbrance" or "abandoned." This does not decriminalize homelessness in all the many growing ways it is being criminalized. And of course this does not end our housing crisis to enable people to actually afford homes.
As much as the city wants to claim that every homeless person in Denver can go into the shelters, this continues to be a lie. The presence of open beds does not equal the ability of people to stay in those beds. Much less the desire – the city itself has recognized they cannot force people into shelter like jail. Furthermore, the Mayor’s claim that they only took people’s gear as evidence while "protesting" (surviving) at City Hall is also false as can be seen in this video. And even more important the Mayor’s claim that the city has only taken blankets or tents from only three people is most blatantly a lie as can been seen in countless sweeps where the city takes people’s belongings.