“This is fucking unbelievable,” mutters Jason Flores-Williams as he observes another sweep of homeless encampments near the Denver Rescue Mission.
The scene around him is chaos: police officers barking orders and cordoning off sections of sidewalk with yellow “Do not cross” tape, employees of the Denver Department of Public Works piling unclaimed bicycles and wheelchairs into the back of a flatbed truck, members of the media shoving microphones and cameras into the faces of the homeless for some up-close-and-personal documentation of the desperation and drama....
And yet even in all this frenzy along Park Avenue West and Lawrence Street, Flores-Williams stands out. With a bald head and manicured goatee, often accompanied by an intense scowl, he bears a passing resemblance to Vladimir Lenin — only he’s dressed much nicer than the Communist revolutionary, in an immaculately pressed pinstriped suit that’s complemented by a silver briefcase.
The look earns Flores-Williams some attention — not only from the cops, who peer over a document he produces from his briefcase and grudgingly allow him to pass under the police tape into the restricted area — but from homeless individuals on the sidewalk.
“Hey, aren’t you the lawyer that’s suing the city?” yells one.
Flores-Williams spins on his heels to look the man in the eyes.
“Yeah,” he replies curtly. “That’s me.”
In late August, Flores-Williams made national headlines when he filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against Denver and various city officials, including Mayor Michael Hancock. The suit alleges that Denver has been violating the constitutional rights — particularly the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unlawful searches and seizures — of its homeless population when enforcing the city’s ban against camping and conducting sweeps of homeless people and their property.
This cleanup operation on November 15 is just the latest in a string of police actions that the attorney hopes to end with his lawsuit, which is currently awaiting a district judge’s ruling on class certification. The ruling will determine whether the nine individual plaintiffs will be considered representative of thousands of homeless people in Denver.
Before Flores-Williams sued the city, he was largely unknown in Denver’s legal community — even though his past spans multiple careers, cities and continents. He’s a former novelist whose edgy works reflect his own adventures in hedonism. While today he takes on the occasional civil-rights case, he has also represented international fugitives, alleged murderers and suspected drug dealers. And he’s currently in contract negotiations with a well-known production company to host a reality-TV show in which he’ll be a gonzo lawyer who embeds with activists on the front lines of resistance in Trump’s America; the pilot will be filmed in Washington, D.C., on January 20.
In short, Jason Flores-Williams is not afraid to get in anyone’s face. And whether he’s challenging Denver to a showdown in federal court or defying President-elect Donald Trump on TV, you’re going to be seeing a lot more of him.
Flores-Williams’s base of operations is a posh apartment in the gentrified area just north of Union Station. On a recent Sunday, the 47-year-old attorney lounges five stories above the railyards, sipping tequila and playing a round of FIFA, a popular soccer video game for Xbox, on his flat-screen TV.
“Some of the neighbors don’t like that I’m suing the city,” he says while furiously punching buttons on his video-game controller. “Not like I care.”
He acknowledges the irony of representing the homeless in court while he resides in a high-rent development with a security entrance designed to keep out undesirables from the streets. “I make no bones about it: I enjoy nice stuff,” he says, gesturing toward a new pair of skis propped next to his TV.
Flores-Williams makes most of his money from large out-of-state criminal cases, especially ones defending individuals or groups accused of trafficking drugs across the southern U.S. border. “Right now I’ve got one case that allegedly involves meth and one that allegedly involves coke,” he says.
Those cases allow Flores-Williams to take on time-intensive pro bono lawsuits, too, including the class-action suit against Denver. “I wish that these attorneys for the city would spend as much time looking at the constitutional rights of the dispossessed as they do with proceduralization and the covering up of injustice,” he says. “But they don’t. They’re just doing their narrow, extracted, isolated, intentionally fractured job so that they don’t have to take moral responsibility for what they’re doing.”
But while Flores-Williams’s disdain for the city’s attorneys is clear, he’s no ACLU-type litigator, and his own code of moral responsibility is far from black and white. “The reason that I became what I am — good and bad — is that I had an insulated, nice little life cooking,” he explains, “and then all of a sudden, I was ripped and raped from that life.”
Jason Flores-Williams faces off against a police officer.
Jason Flores-Williams was born in 1969 in Los Angeles. His well-off family lived for a while in Houston, then moved to Santa Fe when he was in middle school. That’s when his father, Drake Williams, was indicted by the federal government on drug-trafficking charges.
Flores-Williams took things hard. At one point he tried to kill himself by taking a medicine cabinet-full of pills. He was also sent, briefly, to military school before dropping out. But by the time the case entered the jury-trial phase, life at home was miserable. His father had become monstrous and abusive, he remembers, and had even convinced him that his mother was having an affair with someone from her church.
Still, he went to the courthouse every day to watch his father stand trial.
“The government shaped the trial before it began,” writes Flores-Williams in Child of War, a memoir.
“According to the [federal] prosecutor, who was called the ‘Maggot’ behind his back, Dad’s accounting firm, A Jiffy Corporation, was nothing more than a laundering front for a Pablo Escobar-like organization. The Maggot didn’t like the first judge, a liberal black woman, so behind the scenes worked to get her removed. The new judge was conservative, with a daughter rumored to have a drug problem.”
While Flores-Williams acknowledges that his father was a drug kingpin-like figure in the early ’80s, though certainly not on the level of Pablo Escobar, he still believes the trial was one-sided. “My dad allegedly had the finest lawyers in the country, and they did nothing. They were horrific. I looked at those guys and I looked at the judge, and from the second I walked into the courtroom, I knew my father was going down hard,” he recalls. “So I’m never going to be one of those lawyers who sits there and watches as his client’s and his client’s family’s lives are completely fucked over while he collects his paycheck.”
Drake Williams was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. He was released about ten years ago, but Flores-Williams says the trial and prison sentence effectively destroyed his relationship with his father. “I’m sorry things went so horrible for you, Dad,” he writes in Child of War. “You deserved to get your ass kicked, but you didn’t deserve to be annihilated.”
If there was any positive outcome from that ordeal, it was that Flores-Williams began to look outward and explore his options.
“I think there’s a commonality between Dickens and Dostoyevsky and a lot of individuals who grow up privileged and are then ripped from it,” he says. “You become palpably aware of the power dynamics that exist in society. And after that you have a choice to either run from them or fight them…and so at first I thought — because of fucking Jack Kerouac and [Albert] Camus — that the way to fight that was by writing.”
Just before finishing high school, Flores-Williams told his mother and sister that there was nothing left for him in New Mexico and that he was going to travel and write.
He wanted to fulfill his schooling requirements before he left, though. “So I took the GED while on mushrooms,” he recalls with a laugh. The hallucinogens weren’t supposed to kick in until after the test, but his proctor ended up coming two hours late to start the exam. “I mean, that paper was flying around the table, man. I think I peaked when I hit the mathematics section.” He still passed.
Soon Flores-Williams was on a bus bound for New York City. After spending a brief period hanging out with sculptors and punk-rockers on the Lower East Side, he decided that he needed to further educate himself in the craft of writing if he was ever going to become a successful author. That education began in Washington, D.C., where he lived on a friend’s couch and went to the Library of Congress every day to fill his head with philosophy and literary classics. “I read everything and understood nothing. It was wonderful,” says Flores-Williams, citing authors like Herman Melville, Henry Miller, John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault.
To make ends meet, he worked at a Mrs. Fields cookie outpost; he used his last few dollars each month to buy an issue of The Economist.
Flores-Williams’s efforts paid off: When he took the SATs, he scored high enough to get a scholarship to the University of New Mexico, where he spent a year studying the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. He followed that with two years at the City University of New York: Hunter College.
“And that’s when I heard Prague was happening,” Flores-Williams recalls.
It was 1991, just after the fall of the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe was experiencing rapid reforms and change. Flores-Williams wanted to see that for himself, but he could not anticipate the role that he’d play. “Greatness was once again thrust upon me when I became the first pizza-delivery boy in Eastern Europe,” he says.
In Prague, Flores-Williams frequented a pizza place called Joe’s, and one day he suggested to the shop’s owners that they begin a delivery service, a concept still unheard of in Eastern Europe.
The owners liked the idea, and the next thing Flores-Williams knew, he was the one delivering pies for Joe’s, riding his bike in the snow across the Charles Bridge. “And the Czechs would throw these parties specifically for the pizza delivery, because it was so new and such a big deal to them,” recalls Flores-Williams. “So I’d take my pizza into a party, and three hours later I’d walk out of there so fucked up — just hashed out and everything.”
Partying also characterized Flores-Williams’s next stop after Prague: San Francisco, where he wrote a number of novels.
The day he arrived at his residential hotel, he discovered a syringe in his bed and a bloody condom in the sink. “That was what I wanted, though,” he says. “I wrote a book about that life, called End of the West. [I] was certainly dedicated to a bohemian lifestyle. It was all about writing, fucking, playing, drug use — the entire thing. But at the core of it was massive literary production. I wrote throughout. I wrote six to seven hours a day during my twenties. And when I partied, I partied. It was the Hunter S. Thompson model.”
Flores-Williams developed some local fame as a writer, and particularly for his dramatic readings. The San Francisco Chronicle called him “a literary force of nature, a train wreck of genius.” And Flores-Williams’s profile only expanded once he helped start a popular literary festival called Litstock.
But with a taste of fame also came a swelling ego. Looking back at that time, Flores-Williams admits that he may have taken the bohemian lifestyle too far. “I used to like to get orgies going at the time,” he explains. “And people usually seemed to like it.” Except that one time, after a group sexual act turned awkward, it had ripple effects on important friendships.
“In Bohemia, you just don’t go by the normal rules, like how people should be fucking each other,” Flores-Williams says. “And I overstepped the bounds, as is predictable, and so I alienated myself…. They took the event that I founded away from me — deservedly so — and turned it into their own thing, so I haven’t been a part of it since.”
Litstock is now known as Litquake, and Flores-Williams is not listed anywhere on its website.
But even as he was burning through relationships in San Francisco, Flores-Williams managed to write a novel while living with a girlfriend (now his wife) in her garage.
“The Last Stand of Mr. America was the one novel I got right. The other shit…well…whatever,” he says.
The Last Stand of Mr. America is intense. In it, Flores-Williams plumbs the everyday distractions and materialism of America through the stream-of-consciousness narration of his main character, Sam, whose dark humor, search for meaning and infatuation with a sex club named Rockets and Missiles provide a no-holds-barred yet somewhat nihilistic view of modern life.
(In the video below, Flores-Williams provides his own explanation of what the novel is about)
Flores-Williams’s prose is punchy and direct. In one passage, Sam narrates what he’s seeing in a room at the sex club by saying, “[This] is domination of the highest caliber. Humiliation par excellence. The sort of action that must have devastating psychological effects on the submissive party. There are dents in the world and this is one of them. It is mesmerizing. Roman Coliseum type of shit.”
Flores-Williams knew he had produced something original — at the very least — but it wasn’t enough, he recalls: “I started going crazy for the fact I couldn’t get it published!”
One night he was reading passages of the book at San Francisco’s Edinburgh Castle Pub — the same bar where he’d gotten the idea for Litstock — when one of the Scottish bartenders said he wanted to send a copy of the manuscript to Irvine Welsh, the Scottish novelist who wrote Trainspotting, with whom the bartender had a personal connection.
“Sure, go ahead,” Flores-Williams said, not really expecting anything to come of it.
A month later, Flores-Williams received an e-mail that included the line, “This is a major work.” The message was not from Welsh, but from Kevin Williamson, a well-known editor in Scotland who’d founded the publishing company Rebel Inc. — which had published Welsh’s Trainspotting — and had since moved on to be an editor at Canongate.
“By then I had played myself out in San Francisco — sex-wise, drug-wise, personality-wise, ego-wise,” Flores-Williams remembers. “So just weeks before the new millennium, on my thirtieth birthday, I took a bus to Albuquerque, where my mom lived, and I told her, ‘I’m going to Edinburgh, because they’re the only people that appreciate my work.’
“So began the great journey.”
Flores-Williams hitchhiked from Albuquerque to Denver, then flew to London. By the time he made it to Canongate’s offices in Edinburgh, he’d hitchhiked hundreds of miles, slept under bridges and hadn’t showered since leaving the United States. “But I used the last of my thirty pounds on a pint to summon my courage, and I walked into the Canongate offices,” Flores-Williams recalls. “I just went right up to the secretary and said, ‘I’m the great author of The Last Stand of Mr. America! Are you guys going to publish me or not?’”
He and Williamson inked a deal that evening.
But if Flores-Williams thought his life was going to change after the publication of his novel, he was wrong. While The Last Stand of Mr. America did receive some critical praise — particularly from publications in San Francisco — sales never took off, even with distribution in the United States by Grove/Atlantic. “I think many artists believe that they’ll get their first album out, or major book, or major piece, and it’ll be a game-changer — but for most, not much changes when you do,” Flores-Williams says.
It didn’t take long before he and his girlfriend, who’d joined him in Scotland, had used up his advance.
They returned to America, this time landing in New York, where Flores-Williams became a political reporter for High Times. The editor at the time was Richard Stratton, who had served time in the same prison as Flores-Williams’s father. For his first assignment, Stratton asked Flores-Williams to guest-edit an issue of the magazine covering the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Flores-Williams was at first invigorated by the writers he met on New York’s literary scene, including Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm), Norman Mailer and Mailer’s son, Buffalo, with whom he is still close friends.
He was constantly pushing buttons, recalls the younger Mailer, who’s known today primarily as a screenwriter. Right after the death of Ronald Reagan, for instance, Flores-Williams “gave an obituary ode to Reagan that I think started off with ‘You cock-smooching motherfucker. I hate you for tearing my family apart. I’m glad that you’re dead.’” Mailer laughs, adding, “It was something to that effect, but I’m butchering his fine prose. He definitely had no fear of going there.... I remember thinking, ‘God, what a blessed life to be able to surround yourself with people who are so relentlessly themselves.’”
Flores-Williams claims that Norman Mailer once looked him in the eye and said, “You’re a dangerous writer. Stay dangerous.”
“I don’t know if I can give my dad credit for that or not, but I wouldn’t doubt it,” Buffalo says. “I don’t think it’s going too far to say that [Flores-Williams] is one of the best writers of our generation. In terms of his craft and his wordsmanship, it’s amazing. Particularly his spoken-word performance.”
But Flores-Williams wanted more than accolades for his prose. He wanted his writing to produce action.
On May 12, 2004, he had that opportunity, after promoting a protest against the Iraq War on New York’s Fifth Avenue.
“A few of us ‘died’ in the middle of the street in front of Rockefeller Center at 9 a.m. We shut down traffic and everything,” Flores-Williams remembers. “It was great — cars honking, people screaming, a big ol’ paddy wagon, the whole fucking thing.”
The problem was that hardly anyone besides Flores-Williams was willing to get arrested.
“Here’s what I realized organizing that protest: I was surrounded by people who seemed like the most revolutionary badasses who were ready to go,” Flores-Williams says. “But when I started asking all those people to take part in the protest, all of a sudden they had class at their community college, they had their job, they had a million and one reasons not to take part. And so out of all of the people who represented themselves as the ‘resistance,’ three were willing to get arrested that day.”
That was when Flores-Williams’s disillusionment with New York’s activist circles peaked — and also when he developed a severe antipathy toward the far left.
“I took more heat for organizing civil disobedience from the left then I ever did from the right,” Flores-Williams says. “I realized that if you’re going to be a person of action, you’re not part of anything. You’re your own thing…. This wasn’t an overnight realization, just a slow-burning and persistent disappointment.”
Once again, it was time for a change. And once again, Flores-Williams decided to go in a completely different direction: He went to law school.
Four years later, after graduating from Rutgers Law School in New Jersey, Flores-Williams opened his own law firm in Santa Fe in 2009. “And from that point, things just skyrocketed,” he says.
Buffalo Mailer thinks a legal career was a wise move for Flores-Williams. “Before, he wanted to be famous. He wanted acknowledgment on a massive scale,” Mailer says. “And I think the reason it wasn’t working for him is because it wasn’t primarily about the change he wanted to effect; it was about his ego being appeased and acknowledged as the writer that he is.... He wanted the acknowledgment as much as he wanted the work.
“But now the work is more important,” he continues. “He lets his writing serve his legal prowess in ways that are effective — appreciated not necessarily by the New York literary circles, but by people who are actually legislating. It’s a beautiful transition.”
Flores-Williams’s early legal career included filing appeals in capital-punishment cases and defending whistleblowers. But he soon took on even more controversial cases. The one that has produced the most heat — and attention — is the case of Charlie Hill, an American fugitive who escaped to Havana, Cuba, by hijacking a commercial airplane and flying there in 1971.
Flores-Williams got interested in Hill after New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder following President Barack Obama’s 2014 announcement that the United States was normalizing relations with Cuba. She requested that the U.S. press Cuba to extradite Hill, whom the State of New Mexico has been trying to prosecute since 1971.
“And I saw the parade of cops and DA and dumb [New Mexico] media use no attempt to understand who [Hill] was and why he was in his situation,” recalls Flores-Williams.
Hill was a member of the Republic of New Afrika, a black-power militant group that wanted the South to secede from the United States as a separate nation for African Americans. On November 8, 1971, Hill and two other men — Michael Finney and Ralph Goodwin — were driving from California in a car packed with military-grade weapons when they were pulled over by New Mexico State Police Officer Robert Rosenbloom.
Rosenbloom was later found dead by the side of the road with a gunshot wound to his throat, still clutching his flashlight and gun.
“Mr. Hill did not kill him, for the record,” says Flores-Williams. “There were two other people in the car.”
But it was clear that all three men would probably be convicted of murder if they were caught. So the armed separatists drove into Albuquerque, pirated a tow truck and ran over a fence onto a runway at Albuquerque International Airport, where they boarded an idling plane, TWA Flight 106.
“Take us to Cuba,” they told the flight crew.
“They split in a way that cool people do,” says Flores-Williams, smiling and shaking his head. “Hill was brave enough to do it. And I respect him. I understand why a black man would, in 1971, feel the need to go to war with a racist America — an America that spied on its own citizens with programs like COINTELPRO.”
While the men with whom Hill fled to Cuba have died, Martinez’s letter to Obama showed Flores-Williams that Hill was not safe. “They’re still trying to extradite him so he can die in American prison,” he says.
The lawyer reached out to a journalist who worked for Al Jazeera and connected Flores-Williams to Hill, who agreed to be represented.
Flores-Williams knew that aiding and abetting a fugitive was risky. The first time he visited Hill in Cuba, he worried not only that he was being spied on, but that he might be stopped by federal agents during a layover in Houston. While that didn’t come to pass, Flores-Williams’s motion to dismiss the charges against Hill — citing the prejudice of a sitting governor, who was interfering in a case in which the
defendant had not been proven guilty — was denied under the Fugitive Disentitlement Act.
Despite previous assurances from Cuban officials that he would not be extradited, Hill still faces an uncertain future following the death of Fidel Castro on November 25. Already, there are renewed efforts out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque to press for his extradition; on November 27, Flores-Williams had to fly to New Mexico to file new motions in the case.
Hill says he’s grateful for all that the attorney is trying to do for him. He never had a lawyer before Flores-Williams. “Nobody would take the case up,” Hill says.
Now 67, with two children he fathered in Cuba, Hill knows that if he returned to the United States now, he would most likely die behind bars. “I’ve been here 45 years. It’s not worth me coming back,” he says.
Taking Hill’s case, however, has come with some costs for Flores-Williams.
Residents of Santa Fe came down on him hard, accusing him of defending cop killers and calling him an “attention seeker.” For a while, he’d been making good money representing medical marijuana outfits in New Mexico, but many of those clients left. “I probably lost 100 Gs because of Hill. I was too hot,” says Flores-Williams. “When they’d look me up and see that I’m one of the most radical lawyers, representing alleged cop killers, they tended to say, ‘We’re not sure you’re the guy for us.’”
Last year, Flores-Williams decided to move his practice full-time to Denver, where he’d interned as a public defender in 2006. He’d also spent a lot of time here in 2012, when he became deathly ill with an autoimmune disorder that was treated at National Jewish Hospital.
Today he lives with his wife, Sheryl, and two dogs at the apartment complex behind Union Station. “She’s a very private person, in contrast to me, who does things loudly,” he says of Sheryl. “She’s the kind of person who, on her own, will make food in the kitchen and take it down to the river and feed people. It’s not the kind of thing that anyone will see. It’s not going on social media. She is truly the internalized off-the-grid chick.”
Since moving his practice to Denver, Flores-Williams has mostly focused on drug cases and criminal law, which he does not feel are inconsistent with civil-rights litigation. “Criminal defense involves and threatens some of the most fundamental constitutional rights we have,” he says.
“But it also didn’t take a lot to recognize that the same [injustices] that I had seen happen in other cities like New York were happening in Denver,” he adds. “Denver has an opportunity to be one of the leading American cities, setting the tone for what a progressive urban environment can be. But unfortunately, it’s just gone the most predictably average route in the world, kicking out undesirables and using ordinances to justify getting them out of the consumer areas of the city where business and economic development is being invested, rather than focus on larger concerns that involve human dignity, social justice and constitutional rights.”
Like other Denverites, he saw the news reports on the homeless sweeps of March 8 and 9, when Denver police officers and city employees removed nearly a hundred homeless individuals and their belongings from the streets of the Ballpark neighborhood. Flores-Williams felt compelled to do something about it.
“This is the whole thing,” he says. “Everybody starts off saying, ‘If I ever saw X happen — Japanese internment, segregation, the Holocaust, massive injustice — then I would leave the comfort of my life and do something about it. Everyone starts off thinking that, but instead, what everyone ends up doing is making justifications for why it’s not really in their face, why it doesn’t affect them —that it’s not their ‘calling.’
“So in my life, I’ve just been the guy who decided that, for me, so that I am happy with myself, I’m going to do something about it,” he says. “In that way, I’m like the most selfish social-justice guy on the planet.”
When Terese Howard of Denver Homeless Out Loud received an e-mail from Jason Flores-Williams asking if her organization was interested in finding plaintiffs to sue Denver over its camping ban and homeless sweeps, she was skeptical. For starters, she’d never heard of him. “It’s some random lawyer, not originally from Denver, so as with anyone we don’t know about, we did our research,” she recalls.
Howard was especially wary because her organization had previously reached out to four local legal organizations, which she declines to name — all of which were reluctant to take up a case against Denver’s policing of the homeless. “They were progressive lawyer organizations that we knew people at, and we thought that somebody would be interested in taking a case on. But nobody came through,” she says.
But after looking up Flores-Williams’s legal track record and having a number of face-to-face meetings, Howard was impressed — and Denver Homeless Out Loud agreed to partner with Flores-Williams on a class-action suit against the city.
“One of the things that I like about him is that he doesn’t just go off on a whim based on his own idea,” Howard says. “He works to check in and make sure that he’s understanding the realities of the street.”
This includes calling DHOL throughout the week and sending the organization drafts of briefs to ensure that his writing about the plaintiffs is representative and factual. “He definitely came off to us as willing to take risks and push things in ways that others might not be willing to,” adds Howard.
Still, other legal groups in town — which asked to remain anonymous — are concerned that Flores-Williams’s case is not as airtight as it needs to be; if he loses, they worry that it will set a legal precedent in federal court that could make it more difficult to sue municipalities for violating the constitutional rights of the homeless in the future.
But Howard says she’s well aware of the risks in going to trial. “That’s always the concern: Is this going to fail and create that precedent?” she asks. “But we can’t just not do anything forever just because there’s a risk involved. I think that this is a very strong case; we’re talking about the seizure of property here and the violation of the Fourth Amendment. And similar cases around the country have been winning in particular over the last couple of years.”
One such case was recently settled, when a federal judge in Tacoma ruled in September that sweeps of homeless encampments that had taken place from 2012 to 2014 in parts of Washington State violated the constitutional rights of homeless individuals; the judge also ruled that damages should be awarded to those who lost possessions during the sweeps.
Flores-Williams sees similar potential with his case. “Look, these ridiculous naysayers — they really miss a lot of opportunities in their microscopic negativity and knee-jerk reactions,” he says. “Why? Because they don’t see what platforms are in society. They don’t see that this litigation could be a platform to challenge something else.”
Since he filed the case, other lawyers have offered to help, but so far he’s been unimpressed. “I just prefer to do it myself,” he says.
He knows what he’s up against with the city’s attorneys.
“I go meet them and they’re nice people, but at the same time, they’re the ones on the leading edge of enforcing the degradation of humanity,” he says. “They’re sheltered from the homeless, in the same way that the minister of culture who worked under Goebbels was probably never at Auschwitz. It’s the same dynamic.”
The City Attorney’s Office issued this statement about Flores-Williams and his case:
“Thus far, there has not been much opportunity to work with Mr. Flores-Williams, as he did not reach out to the City Attorney’s Office prior to filing his lawsuit. The city filed its answer to the allegations on November 3, although the case remains in the very beginning stages. In the meantime, the City continues its efforts to provide services to those in need. The City and County of Denver spends nearly $50 million a year on direct and indirect homeless services. In the last several years, the City has increased direct services, including overnight and day shelter services as well as increased access to housing for all people.
Our focus is on connecting people who are on the streets to the individualized assistance needed to help them stabilize their lives and move forward. The City’s practice is to first try and connect people to services and treatment, and if that doesn’t work, people are given notice, usually multiple times, before any enforcement action is taken. These are complex challenges and we strive to be as compassionate as possible while also ensuring safety and public health for all Denver residents.”
Homeless individuals camped near the Denver Rescue Mission on November 15 are told they need to clear their belongings.
The next step in the homeless case depends on whether Federal District Court Judge William Martinez grants a class certification based on the nine plaintiffs, a decision that could come down any day. Flores-Williams has been waiting since Denver filed its final response on October 31.
“Maybe this man — Judge Martinez — is the one man who still has enough courage and interest in justice to say, ‘This is a class and I’m certifying it,’” he says. “It would be a landmark ruling. It would be the largest dispossessed-homeless class in America, currently, and maybe in history.”
Being able to extrapolate from nine plaintiffs to thousands of homeless individuals is crucial for the case, Flores-Williams says. And so if Martinez rejects the class certification, the attorney has promised to appeal to the Tenth Circuit.
While he awaits Martinez’s decision, Flores-Williams has plenty of other irons in the fire. Besides his criminal cases and his trips to New Mexico to fight Hill’s extradition, he’s being considered for a gig as a television-show host.
On November 20, a production company flew Flores-Williams to Toronto to pitch a program in which he would provide legal advice to activists who are opposing Trump and his policies. Negotiations are still in the early phases, so the names of the producers, network and details about possible episodes can’t be released at this time, but Flores-Williams is excited about the opportunity.
Back in his apartment, he sinks a game-winning goal in the video game, and the game’s announcer, which has been set to Spanish, screams “Gooooooooooaaal!”
Flores-Williams takes a final swig of tequila and declares that he’s cutting himself off for the night; he needs to be effective the next morning.
“I wake up every day and ask, ‘What’s going to happen? Is this going to be a day where I need to drop everything and fight?’” he says.
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In Trump’s America, he thinks there’s a good chance that he will see that day.
“The writing, the lawyering — it’s all been part of the same trip: an effort to live free in a world of control,” he says. “I’ll be a member of the bar until my actions are quote-unquote too radical…which really just means that I’m the one taking action.
“Taking action,” he repeats. “That’s what it all comes down to.”