Denver is ramping up unhoused abuse in a bitter and controversial winter at the height of Colorado’s Covid crisis, even as a federal lawsuit this week threatens to end the city’s unconstitutional measures.

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The city of Denver has been executing since April 35 homeless warehouse “sweeps”– a harmless but apt nickname for the cyclical destruction of property and the forcible displacement of vulnerable communities. This brute force tactic spearheaded Denver’s response to the city’s growing real estate crisis during the year.

If you don’t know what homeless sweeping means, imagine this: After a cold night of restless sleep, you will be woken up by the sound of heavy construction right outside your tent before 5am. Chain link fences are pulled across asphalt and quickly get you into a few square blocks as a parade of police cruisers and utility vehicles idle on your street, their roaring lights pose a silent threat. There’s the grinding roar of a bobcat pulling up and parking and waiting in the wings to dispose of any homes or possessions that may need to be destroyed in the next few hours.

John Staughton © 2020

The Denver Police Department wakes the residents before the sun comes up, shakes their tents and informs them that they will have to pack and vacate the premises in a few hours. Residents (who are present) are told that their excess belongings can be kept by the city in a single location in the west of the city. However, if you are trying to survive on the street during a long winter, then when deciding what to keep and what to keep, unhoused people will be put between the hammer and anvil.

When a tent is found empty, city workers often cut it open and immediately render it unusable. They look for contraband that the tent deems “disposable,” including half-eaten food, sharp objects / drug paraphernalia, and signs of rodents. Mistakes or unsanitary conditions. If any of these items are found, the entire tent, along with any personal property inside, can be destroyed.

John Staughton © 2020

Mind you, as the nights begin to freeze, some housingless residents seek security and warmth outside of their tent – indoors with friends or family, at a shelter, etc. In some cases, when they return to their home the next morning, they will find you Tent was gone and their possessions destroyed. At other times, a resident may have too much time to move to their new location in a single trip, but by the time they return for the rest it has already been scooped up and thrown away, destined for the dump.

A federal trial will begin tomorrow morning seeking an injunction to stop the searches (15th December) in federal court by Alfred A. Arraj in Denver. Unhodged residents who have experienced such nightmares of property destruction will testify during this two-day hearing, advocating that these searches should be stopped, at least during the Covid-19 pandemic, for the health and safety of the unhodged citizens to protect Denver from a wider spread of the community. In addition, the lawsuit states that Denver officials have blatantly ignored a 2018 settlement agreement (Lyall et al. V. Denver) on several occasions by showing up at homeless camps without notice, demanding that residents move along, and in some cases seize and destroy their property.

But even if District 10 judge Martinez hears this case on Tuesday morning less than 3 miles away, the 36th round of this pandemic will be held in Kalamath and 4th Avenue. Two days later, the 37th sweep is scheduled to set camp on the 16th and Pearl, which about 50 people call home. Even while the legality of such acts is being debated in federal court, the city of Denver is trying to squeeze more brutal morning hours, one last portion of overtime for police officers, and thousands more into the pockets of contractors. If this week’s injunction is successful, it means the cash tap will be turned off, at least temporarily.

John Staughton © 2020

In a disgusting twist, this Pearl St. Sweep will be right across the street from the city’s second SOS (Safe Outdoor Space) The site, which is due to open on the same day, offers permanent tent accommodation for 40 people. The first SOS site in Denver, which opened last week, can accommodate roughly the same number. While these SOS locations are a reluctant step in the right direction, they’re plasters for gunshot wounds, as the city’s unhoused population is estimated at over 5,000 – and with that The moratorium on rent ends in a few weeks and an impending eviction crisis across the state.

Denver’s response to its crisis can be described as many things – inadequate, classic, violent, racist, heartless, complex, pathetic … but cruel feels most appropriate.

In the past 14 days alone, there have been 5 days of reversals during which more than 400 people have been displaced to disperse and survive somewhere else in freezing December temperatures. While these relentless actions have required the coordination of multiple agencies, hundreds of individuals, and millions of dollars, the authority to stop them ultimately rests with one person – Mayor Michael B. Hancock.

John Staughton © 2020

This is the same mayor who will do it Not Appear in federal court this week to defend its unconstitutional rulings regarding the sweeps as it is apparently easy to overturn a subpoena when one has the privilege of power. This level of aspiration and contempt for justice is shocking, but not surprising. After all, this is the same city so committed to real estate interests that it demolished the oldest and largest homeless warehouse in Denver (29th and Arkins) so that a new luxury development could proceed with its rededication application.

There are currently more than 20,000 vacant homes and condos in the greater Denver area. However, the city has given another 16-story, horizon-blocking monstrosity priority over the stability and survival of 300 vulnerable citizens.

Calling the mayor a despot may seem hyperbolic, but the defining characteristic of such a leader is cruelty combined with an oppressive disregard for the rights of his people. The manifestation of the mayor’s negligent cruelty can be seen most clearly in the Denver Police Department, whose riot gear, tear gas, and batons are ready and apparently eager to be targeted at a problem. Even ignoring this year of brutal homeless sweeps, the evidence to support such a claim is not hard to find.

John Staughton © 2020

Last week the Independent Monitor’s office in Denver reported that the After George Floyd’s protests, the Denver Police Department lacked a coherent plan due to the lack of documentation of which officers were on duty where and how much non-lethal ammunition was used in the first five days of the riot.

Many officials also failed to submit reports of the use of violence days or even weeks after violent clashes with protesters, which resulted in more than than expected 50 investigations into violations of the behavior of officials. Justice cries to disappoint or abolish the police are still resonating in this city and across the country, but let’s not forget who is literally signing their checks.

Mayor Hancock has established himself in power in this city after a decade and continues to arm the city departments in a war against his own people. His political maneuvers to avoid accountability in federal courts, his enabling police brutality and violence against citizens, and his disdain for unprofitable demographics put the Denver mayor in line with another despotic American leader who despite the (D) has been standing alongside Hancock for too long the power was name.

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