Videos Show Police Confiscating Denver Homeless’ Blankets in Subzero Temperature

A pair of videos achieving viral status over the past week have sparked substantial outrage and for good reason. They show police in Denver, Colo., forcibly taking blankets, sleeping bags and tents from homeless people just before of major cold spell — one that ended up reaching negative 20 degrees for a time.

Denver, like a number of other cities in the United States, has, in recent years, passed laws essentially criminalizing homelessness. In Colorado’s capital, it is obliquely described as an “urban camping ban” — as if these individuals are merely tourists unwilling to pay for a motel room.

I recently wrote about Seattle’s homeless crisis, where human rights activists called out the city for not only perpetuating a policy of homeless encampment sweeps (read: routine harassment of vagrants) but doing so by enlisting prisoners to carry out the deed.

Denver, however, has earned an unique distinction for its blasé mistreatment of its roughly 6,000 homeless. Earlier this year I wrote about a scandal surrounding a prominent charity named Denver’s Road Home, a group that solicited locals for their spare change with donation receptacles that resemble parking meters scattered throughout the downtown area.

Denver’s Road Home asks people to avoid giving money directly to the homeless and to instead donate it to the charity; this money is then meant to go to services that would provide housing and medical treatment. However, it was found that over $76,000 from the charity was earmarked by the city to fund the confiscation of homeless people’s property, not to help them.

When this was exposed, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock brushed off the scandal as a mere “administrative snafu” that was sorted out, before saying “it’s done and we move on.”

Yes, Mr. Hancock, it is clear you have moved on — if by that, you mean proceeded to continue to badger Denver’s homeless rather than help them.

The first video, originally posted to Facebook, has garnered over half a million views. It depicts a large number of Denver Police Department officers collecting blankets from people camped out on a sidewalk at night; they explain that they are merely collecting “evidence of a crime.” Please be aware that it contains mature language:

This second video, recorded within days of the first, shows a similar interaction between Denver police and several people in another small homeless encampment. One individual is shown a court order the officers say justifies the confiscation of his tent and blankets.

The man, clearly upset, explains that he is disabled and that if they take his tent they are essentially taking his home. In response, these officers, as in the other video, claim that they are collecting “evidence.” Be aware that this video too contains mature language:

As difficult as it may be to watch these videos, they have actually resulted in a crucial change. With the documented incidents finding widespread attention, Denver Major Hancock succumbed to pressure and threats of legal action this past weekend and issued an order for police to no longer collect the homeless’ blankets and tents.

Unfortunately, this does not mean legal citations will cease. Denver police will undoubtedly continue to hand these out, in some cases amounting to as much as $999 in fines and even jail time.

Though local homeless rights groups are calling the policy shift a crucial victory, an organization named Denver Homeless Out Loud points out that Mayor Hancock’s change of heart wasn’t the result “of his own good will. The directive was made due to the legal and public pressure showing this is just plain wrong.” This outcome proves that the will of the people can have a tangible impact outside of the voting booth.

That’s why it’s important to seize this new momentum and continue to advocate for homeless rights and for cities to pursue genuine solutions to their homelessness crises, rather than continuing policies that endanger destitute citizens by simply moving them from one encampment to another.

One of the most straightforward steps on this path would involve a police shift — instead of expending resources on futile and rights-violating actions, cities like Denver could put these funds toward long-term solutions, like public housing.

If you agree that Denver should abolish its ban on “urban camping” and end its homeless encampment sweeps, make your voice heard to Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver’s legislators by sharing and signing the Care2 petition!

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to make your own petition and make your voice heard today!

 

Photo Credit: Unicorn Riot / Vimeo

185 comments

Marie W
Marie W10 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Melania P
Melania Padilla11 months ago

What the hell!! Shame, shame! And they call themselves civilized??

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Jennifer H
Jennifer H11 months ago

Evil and heartless. Seems there is nothing nice about Denver any more. Supports homeless abuse and BSL.

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Jaimee-Leigh C
Jaimee-Leigh C11 months ago

This is awful. No one deserves to be mistreated like this. Police should be handing out blankets, not taking them away, where is the love?

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Lisa M
Lisa M11 months ago

Sickening!!

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Lisa M
Lisa M11 months ago

Sickening!!

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Melissa DogLover
Melissa DogLover11 months ago

EVIL EVIL HUMAN BEING!!!! If you can't help them, then just let them be, unless they are doing something wrong or illegal.

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FOTEINI H
FOTEINI horbou11 months ago

thank you note! :)

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FOTEINI H
FOTEINI horbou11 months ago

send Denver police a THANK YOU NOT for Christmas: dpdpio@denvergov.org

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Denise D
Denise D11 months ago

Petition signed (at least I think I signed, Care2 hasn't been recognizing my email address for a couple of weeks now). Thank you for this article. I'm glad that the confiscating of 'evidence' has 'stopped', what really concerns me is if all if that evidence has been returned to the homeless people since there's no mention that all those people were found safe, warm shelters for the winter. Has the $76,000 in donations been returned?

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