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Advocates Camp Outside Downtown Denver Partnership To Protest Camping Ban

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Homeless people sleeping on the 16th Street Mall (credit: CBS)

Homeless people sleeping on the 16th Street Mall (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – Homeless advocates have been protesting Denver’s proposed ban on overnight camping. On Saturday protesters lined up along the 16th Street Mall and then camped out in front of Downtown Denver Partnership. They say the proposal basically makes being homeless a crime.

“This is a street sweeping measure, we know this,” a resident said at a neighborhood forum held on Saturday.

Opponents of the plan to ban camping in Denver aimed their frustration at Denver’s police chief.

“If they weren’t on the mall there on 16th Street, this ordinance wouldn’t be here,” the resident said.

On Monday city council will vote on a policy that would make overnight camping in city limits illegal. Some council members have been vocal about their opposition.

“If we want to be a compassionate city, a compassionate city, we figure out the service piece first, then we figure out enforcement. That’s the way it is,” Councilwoman Susan Shepherd said at the forum.

Shepherd says she’ll do whatever she can to kill the policy. She’s already pledged to vote against it.

“You have every right to live on these streets and breathe our air and to be safe and to sleep safely,” she said.

Shepherd says the Occupy Denver movement caused the city council to look at a camping ban. There’s little debate that homelessness is an issue. Every night dozens of homeless men and women line downtown Denver, sleeping in breezeways, door stops, and anywhere else they can find shelter.

“Officers just can’t walk up to someone and frisk someone for the sake of frisking them unless they have some reasonable suspicion or if it’s worse than that,” Denver Police Chief Robert White said.

White says officers would only enforce the ordinance as a secondary policy. He says the homeless simply looking for shelter wouldn’t be bothered.

“Homelessness is not a violation of the law. The ordinance speaks to camping,” White said.

A group of protestors spent the night camping outside the Downtown Denver Partnership, which has been an advocate of the ban.

Some council members are already lining up votes against it saying the city needs to address the root cause of homelessness first.

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