Homeless

At Least One Arrest Made on Fourteenth Day of Homeless "Cleanup"

When signs were posted near the Denver Rescue Mission ordering homeless individuals to remove their belongings and camping gear from sidewalks by November 15, many assumed that the city would conduct a large one- or two-day sweep and completely clear the homeless out, much like what happened on March 8 and 9 in the same area.

Instead, the Denver Police Department, along with the Department of Public Works, has engaged in brief "cleanup" operations in which the homeless only have to temporarily leave the sidewalk. These began on November 15 and have continued — sometimes multiple times a day — every day since.

The sustained harassment is a new police tactic and has caused many of the homeless to leave the area on their own, though others (who for various reasons have elected not to check into Denver's crowded homeless shelters) have been making a stand, only temporarily moving from the sidewalk when cops arrive, then returning as soon as the "cleanups" are over.

So far, the city has been reticent to issue citations or to arrest any homeless individuals who are in violation of the camping ban or public-encumbrance ordinances.

But today, Monday, November 28, PJ D'Amico of the Buck Foundation — who has been documenting police harassment throughout the two week cleanup operation using Facebook Live — was arrested when he refused to leave an area of the sidewalk that Denver Police had taped off with yellow "Do Not Cross" tape.

Below is D'Amico's last Facebook Live video, moments before being arrested Monday morning:


Tensions are running high for those living on the street, who have faced police contact for fourteen days straight — much of it during freezing temperatures. As of 10 a.m. Monday, there were two individuals who declared that they were not going to move.

At that time, the area was surrounded by seven Public Works vehicles, a dump truck and at least nine police cruisers.

DPD District Six Commander Ronald Saunier, who was on scene, told Westword that there are no plans to arrest homeless individuals, but he also did not rule out such actions.

"We're not letting people come back and break the law," Saunier said, referring to enforcing the camping ban and sidewalk-encumbrance ordinance.

Westword will monitor the situation and report any additional arrests. 
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker