By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) – Three members of Denver’s homeless population appeared in court on Wednesday morning.

Jerry Burton, Terese Howard and Randy Russell pleaded not guilty to violating the city’s camping ban. Their attorney, Jason Flores-Williams, says they want a trial.

“This is a matter of conscience because the law itself unjust … so what we are doing is taking this all the way to trial,” he said.

CBS4's Karen Morfitt interviews attorney Jason Flores-Williams (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Karen Morfitt interviews attorney Jason Flores-Williams (credit: CBS)

His clients were cited during a protest outside the Denver City and County Building in late November. Their clash with police was caught on video by the group Homeless Out Loud and shows Denver police officers seizing their belongings, including blankets and tents in freezing temperatures.

“The city comes and takes these things from them and leaves them in a worse off position than they were before,” Flores-Williams said.

Homeless moving out from in front of the City and County Building (credit: CBS)

Homeless moving out from in front of the City and County Building (credit: CBS)

Police immediately issued a response to the video saying they were enforcing the city’s ban, and that the seizures only occurred after several hours and several warnings to move along.

Police claim approximately four hours had passed and all but three of the homeless protesters remained. Burton, Howard and Russell were cited and their belongings taken as evidence.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was also quick to respond to the incident and the actions by police. Hancock was a guest on CBS4 on Dec. 12 and told CBS4’s Britt Moreno and Alan Gionet the practice is not widespread and officers were doing their job.

“This is normal practice, but at the end of the day, in regards to our homeless, when it’s frigid outside; we want to make sure that they have the ability to exercise discretion and judgment,” Hancock said. “We’re going to help them by making sure they know there are other ways to take that evidence or at least take pictures of the evidence and then move forward with judicial proceedings.”

Hancock temporarily ordered the practice to stop.

The attorney believes after that order the citations should’ve been dropped and the ban reevaluated. If they had simply pleaded guilty the trio would have likely faced a small fine. If they are found guilty at trial they could spend time in jail.

Karen Morfitt Joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around metro Denver. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.


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