DENVER (CBS4) – A park in front of the Colorado State Capitol building is closed after the city of Denver moved in Wednesday morning to clear out a large tent encampment. The encampment had been considered a health hazard partly due to a rat infestation and consisted of dozens of tents along Broadway and 14th Avenue in what is called Lincoln Park.
The day began with a wake up call from the city for around 100 people still asleep in about 40 tents.
“Good morning the park is being closed today we do need everybody to belongings together,” was the message that came over a bull horn.
It was a wake up call from the city to some not so happy campers like Felicia who declined to give her last name to CBS4’s Rick Sallinger.
“What are you going to do?” she replied. “What am I going to do? Keep doing what I can.”
The encampment expanded rapidly after a Denver County Court judge threw out a ticket for violation of the urban camping ban. The judge found that the ban violated the U.S. Constitution by amounting to “cruel and unusual punishment.”
The city stopped enforcing the ban while it reviewed the ruling and its law. City Attorney Kristin Bronson told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger they were of the opinion that the law was usable while they appealed the judge’ decision.
Police move in to begin shut down of Lincoln park across from Capitol. Homeless tenants will be moved out due to "eminent health hazard" pic.twitter.com/NLgg9Lx3TO
— Rick Sallinger (@ricksallinger) January 15, 2020
The park was deemed unsuitable for humans. It has been just fine for rats. The trash, the food, the filth was their attraction. Even some homeless people were critical.
Rick Hervey said he lost his home and his wife through divorce, but was not living in the encampment,
“All these guys out here they sit here and do drugs out in the open,” Hervey said.
Indeed a bucket used by a worker from the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment was filled with syringes picked up off the ground.
Most of those who camped at the park left willingly, but some were arrested for outstanding warrants.
“They don’t want a better life and the city makes it so easy for them to not do anything,” said Hervey.
There was compassion to be found. Across the street social workers helped the displaced and handed out food.
The sidewalks were hosed down, appreciated at least by the pigeons. Among the homeless, CBS4 found someone else who seemed to welcome this action, Alina Rodriguez.
“Denver police gave me a number. They are going to pick me up, take me to a place I can get sober. They’re going to help me out,” she said.
Others had no idea where to go. Many went across the street. That is until park rangers began to move them out. By nightfall, Lincoln Park was empty, but across the street Civic Center Park was beginning to fill up again.
Because the city determined that there was an “imminent health hazard,” it felt it could move in to clean out the camp without having to give much advance notice. A recent settlement in federal court between the city and the homeless requires up to a week’s notice before such a cleanup occurs.