My Khe Bac Nguyen and Alexis Valeriano Hernandez live at the Residence of Capitol Heights, near the site of a homeless encampment at East 14th Avenue and Logan Street, where a city-ordered sweep is starting this morning. The two Capitol Hill residents, along with others, have organized a grassroots protest of the sweep scheduled to start there at 7 a.m. today.
They were at the site yesterday, too, at a press conference announcing that the activist group Denver Homeless Out Loud and ten individuals have filed a class-action suit in the U.S. District Court of Colorado against the City of Denver and more than fifty other defendants — including Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor Jared Polis — charging that Denver's sweeps of homeless encampments violate provisions of the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments and also aspects of the Colorado Constitution.
"The sweeps are inhumane and must end. To take away our homeless neighbors' only possessions, during a global pandemic, is cruel. Today we say 'Enough is enough' and tell Denver to stop stealing its citizens' belongings," said Andy McNulty, the Killmer, Lane & Newman attorney who crafted the complaint.
The Centers for Disease Control has urged that homeless encampments not be dispersed during the pandemic, for fear of further spreading COVID-19. "Where do you expect homeless people to go?" the organizers of the protest ask. "We cannot continue to terrorize, dehumanize and under-resource those that are most in need in our community."
Valeriano Hernandez graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and came to Denver in June to join Nguyen, who'd moved here from St. Olaf the year before. They saw the encampment growing near their apartment soon after the sweeps in Lincoln Park in late July; those sweeps are cited in the lawsuit.
"Before coming to Denver, I worked on affordable-housing issues in a rural town in Minnesota, so for a while I've had a conviction that people need affordable housing, especially the homeless," he reports. "My Khe organized the protest because she sees a disconnect between how the building manager from our apartment and our fellow housed neighbors portray the homeless.
"We just want to let our neighbors — both the housed and unhoused — know that we care about everyone, and let our politicians know that we're on to them," Valeriano Hernandez adds.
Both Nguyen and Valeriano Hernandez will both speak at the protest, as will a resident of the encampment and Ean Thomas Tafoya, a former Denver City Council aide and longtime community leader. The protest will start at 7 and run until 9 a.m....or later.
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