Breakfast and politics don't always mix -- but Occupy Denver waits for no muffin. After Brianna Borin, co-owner of downtown early-morning eatery Snooze, spoke in "strong favor" of the proposed (and preliminarily passed) urban camping ban at last Monday's eight-hour City Council meeting, the local movement aimed its ire at the restaurant. Yesterday, roughly fifty protesters took on Snooze during its peak morning hours to to decry its owners' support for the ordinance.
Borin says the restaurant, which is located in Denver's Ballpark neighborhood on the southeast corner of Larimer, faces constant interruptions from the city's homeless community, whose members disrupt the business and detract from its quality of service.
"Each morning, Snooze managers make special accommodations to watch our employees walk from the doors of their cars to the front doors of our business just to ensure they arrive safe," she told City Council. "We also spend the first hour of our day walking around our property and picking up any trash or debris left by our neighbors who camp out. A majority of our efforts are spent on cleaning up our property, removing people from our benches that are on our patio and contacting the police during constant disruptions that happen as early as 5 a.m."
Her goal in promoting the ban is that through it, "Each person that walks through our door should feel safe, comfortable and clean."
Snooze also maintains a role in the Downtown Denver Partnership, whose president and CEO, Tami Door, has repeatedly supported the ordinance and its implications for local business. Although officials such as Denver City Council member Albus Brooks, chief sponsor of the potential ban, criticize the seeming divide between local businesses and homeless care providers on the issue, the two sides are frequently pitted against each other without acknowledging their partners in perspective.
"In terms of anyone in this community implying it's one stakeholder group against another driving policy, that's not a valid statement," Door says. "There will always be dissension for any decisions. What is important is that when we talk about 'we' as far as addressing the homelessness issue, we all know we have one goal that we are all dedicated to. It's clear and concise, and that's continuing to solve the homeless issues that we face."
On Saturday afternoon, Occupy Denver's general assembly voted unanimously to approve the following day's action. Beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday, protesters flooded the restaurant's perimeter holding signs reading, "This business supports criminalizing homeless."
"One of the things Occupy is trying to highlight is the business influence that seems to be driving some of the bill," Occupy Denver supporter Antony Hebblethwaite says. "Its embargo until the last minute, the fact that the Homeless Commission was bypassed -- there are tons of reasons that point pretty strongly to a business influence. As we attended the meetings on Monday night and stayed until about 1:30 in the morning, one testimony that really struck us was the one from Snooze."
Page down to continue reading about the Snooze protest. Until 1 p.m., protesters rotated signs and slogans during an attempt at staging a brunch of their own. But when the Thunderdome, Occupy Denver's former kitchen and current partner branch, brought the materials for a "people's pancake picnic," the police stepped in to prohibit the protesters from distributing food.
Backers of the ban also visited Snooze to share the other side of the issue. "I was there to support Snooze and commend their staff on all of the work they've done to help the homeless and all of their leadership in addressing the problem," Door says.
While she ate inside, Brooks visited with Occupy Denver for roughly two hours to debate the topic and answer questions. "I did not expect that," Hebblethwaite says.
Although the action specifically targeted Snooze, Hebblethwaite says the goal is to strike out against the Downtown Denver Partnership's support. On Saturday night, the group plans to stage a second "sleep-in" to protest the ban -- this time immediately in front of the partnership's office at 511 16th Street.
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"This is an example where it really doesn't seem to matter that we're packing the room," Hebbelthwaite says. "These hearings seem to be a veneer for democracy and that's all. This is what Occupy is trying to challenge."
City Council will take its final vote on the ban a week from today. If the ordinance is passed, it will be implemented on May 29.
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver's May Day protest ends with three arrests for obstruction, public fighting."