Denver Homeless Out Loud activist Terese Howard, one of the most outspoken voices in the movement for "rights, dignity and housing" for those living on Denver's streets, was arrested on October 25 while she was filming police conducting a “sweep” of a homeless encampment near Stout and 22nd streets.
Police served her a warrant for failure to appear at a court date, Denver Police Department spokesperson Jay Casilla confirms; the court date in question appears to be a hearing that happened over a year ago, according to Denver County Court case records. The arrest left activists wondering if Howard was targeted because of her record of activism and civil disobedience.
Howard was actively live-streaming yesterday morning, so there's a brief record of the events leading up to her arrest. She filmed police officers asking people inside tents to pack up and "move along," that it was the seventh day after the city had posted notice of a large-scale cleanup, which it is required to do underthe recent settlement of a class-action lawsuit. Howard was trying to figure out exactly what area was designated to be swept, since one sign appeared to be outdated.
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Denver Police Sergeant Brian Conover approached Howard and informed her that he had a warrant for her arrest. "Why do I have a warrant for my arrest?" Howard responded, repeating the question several times. Within a few seconds, officers asked her to stop filming, and the livestream was abruptly cut off.
According to Denver County Court records, Howard failed to appear for a post-sentence hearing in May 2018 related to a 2016 charge for violating Denver’s camping ban. A warrant was issued afterward but apparently never acted upon. At 9:13 a.m. October 25, just before Howard was arrested, the warrant was canceled and then immediately reissued.
In an unusual two-day jury trial in 2016, Howard was convicted of violating the camping ban, along with two others. Attorney Jason Flores-Williams represented her in that case. He says the hearing in question was likely related to an alleged probation violation, since before the 2016 case, Howard was on probation for a trespassing charge.
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Flores-Williams doesn't think the city was necessarily targeting Howard, but he says the warrant could have been resolved without an arrest that might leave her in jail for the weekend. "These are extremely minor charges," he says. "It wouldn’t add up to anything nearly as bad as pulling her off the streets."
Pulled off the streets, Howard was taken to Denver County Jail, from which she was released around 6 p.m. on October 25. She has a court date set for Monday, November 4.
"This all arises out of an effort to bring dignity to those on the streets," Flores-Williams says. "The downside is that in trying to fight for justice in this system, you get swept up into the system yourself."
Update: This story was updated at 8:20 a.m. October 27, to reflect Howard's release from jail and add her November 4 court date.