On Monday, Denver City Council voted 9-4 to pass an urban camping ordinance, and the meeting wasn't pretty: Opponents shouted "Shame!" at the councilmembers, turned their backs on the proceedings and launched a sit-in outside council chambers. From there, roughly fifty protesters followed the pro-ban council members to their cars, where they shouted lines such as "See you in hell!" as police officers cleared the way for ordinance sponsor Albus Brooks and others to leave the building.
"I was disappointed with the response from individuals shouting and disrespecting council members who voted for the ban, (and) the protesters followed council members to their cars," Brooks wrote Westword in an e-mail. "But my focus is bringing about smart services and shelters to those that need it the most. I am not interested in engaging in rhetoric or physical harm that leads to division. I have been threatened, but I ironically feel safe and my eyes are focused on helping our city deliver these services."
That night, councilmembers Paul Lopez and Robin Kniech spoke to the gathering directly, meeting in the parking lot to encourage cool heads and civic engagement. Here's a tweet from Kniech emphasizing that point:
The following day, Brooks chose to respond on social media, where he invited members of the homeless community to stay at his home on Facebook and demanded an apology -- one year from Monday -- from a Twitter user who criticized the ban. Here are those exchanges: Throughout the past week, officials on both sides of the ordinance have come under online attack regarding their decisions -- with a few positive commendations sandwiched in between. Here's an example that's definitely not complimentary.
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Brooks regrets the decision to respond to messages like these but says he knows better now.
"When I was the director of Young Life in Denver I had two young men live with me (who otherwise would have been homeless) for three-four months at different times, until they could get their life together," Brooks notes. "I love being able to provide for folks on a personal level, because I have been blessed with so much. Unfortunately, I acknowledged the attacks on Facebook when I should have ignored the taunting, (and) I learned a powerful lesson."
More from our Politics archive: "Photos: Cries of "Shame!" as camping ban passes at tense council meeting."