After hearing comments from the public and city council last night, Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam is finalizing an ordinance that will close all city parks to residents from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. daily.
Despite debate from Occupy Boulder, city officials backed the bill mirroring Denver's own park curfew with the goal of preventing health and safety risks on city property.
Brautigam cited arrests, heroin use and assault at Occupy Boulder in her argument for closing city parks overnight. Her original plan was to accept written responses via snail mail and e-mail over fifteen days, but public concern regarding the topic grew and created the need for a formal meeting on the issue. The rule, when made official, will close the parks nightly and invite trespassing charges for anyone other than bikers and runners who enters the property past curfew.
Occupy Boulder is currently preparing for a potential altercation with police later this week, and Occupy Denver is moving to support its sister occupation should the need arise.
During last night's public meeting, the majority of Boulder's councilmembers voiced support of the plan to close parks overnight, though councilwomen Suzanne Jones and KC Becker stood in opposition to the ordinance. Along with protesters, Jones and Becker drew attention to negative implications for the city's homeless population, who used public parks before the occupation began.
While Brautigam and other Boulder officials stressed their support of the group's First Amendment freedom of speech, the issue eventually boiled down to the safety hazards they believe are invited by an overnight public presence in the park, which a few called "dangerous" and "unhealthy." At present, approximately thirty Occupy Boulder protesters stay at the encampment overnight on a regular basis.
Approximately fifty people spoke about the new ruling in total, with most of the public debate drawing negative attention to the ordinance and its restrictions on Occupy Boulder and the general public. Although the debate occasionally grew impassioned, the police officers inside the gathering weren't needed for crowd control.
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In the initial stages of the proposed curfew, Occupy Boulder protesters expressed concerns that the new ordinance specifically targets the local occupation as a means of encouraging its end. Early arguments in favor of a curfew cited the health hazard of "encampments," a term that could easily be used to describe Occupy Boulder's current situation, located directly in front of the city municipal building that housed last night's City Council meeting.
Brautigam told the audience that Occupy Boulder protesters have incurred 44 camping tickets in total, which were given to 39 different people during the movement's residency. (The total is a small percentage of the 600 tickets for the offense given out in the past two years.) She also used a heroin overdose and a physical assault, both of which she says have taken place at Occupy Boulder, in her support of the measure's impact on public safety.
Boulder's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union continues to oppose the new park curfew.
More from our Occupy archives: "Boulder park closure issue opened to public discussion after pressure from Occupy Boulder" and "Occupy Boulder told camping is okay, then ticketed for camping (VIDEO)."