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Pro-homeless rally decries $1.8 million for new cops in Ballpark neighborhood, 16th Street Mall

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Photo by Britt Chester
More photos from our 2012 "Sleeping on the 16th Street Mall" slide show below.
Last week, we wrote about advocacy organization Denver Homeless Out Loud's argument that a $1.8 million security plan to add ten new police officers to patrol the Ballpark neighborhood, LoDo and the 16th Street Mall represents a new effort to criminalize homelessness.

This evening, the Denver City Council is expected to address the proposal -- and even though public comments on it aren't being allowed at this time, DHOL and the Colorado Progressive Coalition members plan to attend in force following a rally protesting the approach.

"We don't agree that taxpayer money should be increased so much on policing, especially when it's targeting a vulnerable population of homeless folks and youths at places like the 16th Street Mall," says Tania Valenzuela, a community organizer for the CPC. "If homelessness is really the issue, there are so many alternatives they could be spending that kind of money on."

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The city council's Government and Finance committee discussing the supplemental security proposal.
The phrase "if homelessness is the issue" is an appropriate one, since various stakeholders disagree on this point. As a recent DHOL release cited in our previous post notes, "It would be unconstitutional discrimination for city officials to direct the police force specifically to target people who are homeless because of their housing status. So instead, they explain that it is not about homelessness itself but about 'criminal activity.'" Examples of the latter mentioned by Denver Police Chief Robert White include "panhandling, smoking weed and public urination" -- and DHOL adds that laws forbidding "sleeping in public," "sitting/lying down along the 16th Street Mall" and "'loitering' in various areas" are also expected to be enforced.

From Valenzuela's perspective, however, such language fails to distance the city's actions from the potential impact on Denver's homeless population.

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Tania Valenzuela in a photo from her Facebook page.
"We definitely don't want more harassing and profiling of the homeless," she says. "That money should be spent on things that benefit them, like bathrooms where they could wash up and do the things that are necessary for them."

Mayor Michael Hancock is among those pushing for ten more officers in the area due to what he believes is an increasing need for security services. But "we don't believe downtown is crime-infested," Valenzuela says, "and we don't believe the homeless are criminals. The city is criminalizing the very acts of survival they need to do. And we really believe budget priorities should reflect the true needs of the community."

She adds that assorted police officers "are under investigation for increasing amounts of improper conduct and abuses of power and we definitely don't want more money going to that. They need to fix any internal policing problems before they look at expanding if they really need to -- although we don't see the point for that."

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Photo by Britt Chester
Such messages will be at the heart of today's rally. Participants will gather around 3:30 p.m. at Skyline Park, 16th and Arapahoe, after which they'll march down the mall "in an effort to get people this affects to show up. We're going to pass out fliers and information to them and then walk back to the City and County Building for a small rally with speakers. And then, at 5:30, we're going to head into the city council meeting."

Public comment on this subject isn't expected to be allowed, and Valenzuela concedes that "it's very frustrating. But we're going to show up anyway, and maybe if they see this is such a big concern, they'll give us some space to talk."

For more information about today's event, click here.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our News archive circa June 16: "Homelessness being criminalized in Ballpark neighborhood? Advocacy group says yes."


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45 comments
muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

How about using the extra police to round up conservatives?  These republicans are always trying to take everything and pollute everything they touch.  They are just nasty.  I don't even like to shop when they are around.  We could house conservatives, keeping them safely away from good Americans. 

Dana Thompson
Dana Thompson

I'm sure everyone at this rally would love to have homeless people roaming their neighborhoods and would love to have them sleeping on their front porches.

Brent Dishneau
Brent Dishneau

You bet. That's 1.8 million that can be used for job, ID, physical and mental health assistance. These cops will more than likely beat and/or arrest the homeless in the area and we (taxpayers) pick up the bill for their night in jail. But as long as people can drink their Starbucks without like, totally being crosses out, then everything is okay. #waronthehomeless

Julian Aguirre
Julian Aguirre

Maybe we should spend that 1.8 million dollars on housing and feeding the homeless?

realeyez81
realeyez81

I've spent countless nights on the streets of Denver. All I have to say on the subject is that it's very hard to get off the streets. Family helped me, but I'm still trying to find a place to live and having NO luck. It's really hard not to just give up everyday. The ballpark neighborhood needs to remember what part of the city they're in. It was our city, now it's becoming a city run by money and corruption and politics. Go figure.

Matthew Slim Gaer
Matthew Slim Gaer

I used to be homeless in Denver. 9 months. Its not as easy as just checking into the rescue mission or road home. Their is a 2yr waiting list for their programs. In order to secure a bed nightly u have to line up at 4pm if u have a job tough luck. Only way I made it off was I found someone willing to hire me understanding my predicament that I lived under a bridge and had no shower or toilet. Just because people are homeless doesn't mean they aren't trying. Sometimes people fall and need help back up. A good portion of the population lives "1 check away from homeless" Denver has more homeless than it can handle to help if they want the help. Gotta fund helping those that want it. Not lock em up. You lock em up and instead of having helped now your tax money pays their bills for incarceration.

Legen Dairy
Legen Dairy

Bradfords title is who you blow not who you know. Bitch boy

Dan Ruisi
Dan Ruisi

Bradford, there are 2 of us who know what I was trying to say and then there is you.

Legen Dairy
Legen Dairy

Why dont you educate yourself idiot. 3 years as a network administrator and now im moving into an assistant project manager role that I found on craigslist. Fuck off faggot Bradford. We all cant aspire to live on welfare like you.

Bradford Ashington
Bradford Ashington

Michael, I don't think u understood what Dan was really attempting to convey...lol

Michael Roque
Michael Roque

A lot of them are mentally ill. Can't just go to Craigslist to find a job. There is a guy that sits on the corner of Lincoln and Speer that occasionally goes into the Starbucks with his laptop to look for work. So that's a shining light.

Michael Roque
Michael Roque

Dan has a point. Getting hassled by barefoot treehuggers trying to guilt trip me into sponsoring a child overseas or signing a petition to end fracking is no way to spend my afternoon stroll down the mall.

Michael Roque
Michael Roque

I don't think anyone is pro-homeless. BS headline is BS.

Bradford Ashington
Bradford Ashington

can't rely on the cops to be around 24/7. we aren't North Korea.....yet

Bradford Ashington
Bradford Ashington

CL as a source for viable employment? LMFAO....ever ask urself why people get cleaned out of their life savings? damn, u one dumb ass mofo

Jadababy Jadababy
Jadababy Jadababy

hopefully they'll be policing the amount of drunk lawbreaking by the non-homeless too.

goaway
goaway

I think MORE homeless people need to be let into the ballpark area-- simply to chase OUT the assholes and the entitled douchebags who have moved in. What a joke! These people move in to an area that has a high homeless population, then petition to keep out any kind of help for homeless people who actually need it. GTFO you moronic, entitled pieces of shit.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

When Homelessness is Outlawed, only Outlaws will be Homeless.

Dan Ruisi
Dan Ruisi

They should go after the petition collectors who stare you down for hundreds of feet as you walk towards them. That is always fun.

Legen Dairy
Legen Dairy

You cant help the Homeless if they dont want to help themselves. The Mall isnt their home. Denver has programs to help them. Plenty of jobs on Craigslist that can help them get back on their feet. But they like just asking for money. And then some of them want to jump up and fight you and ultimately get their ass kicked when the fight is brought to their doorstep. More police arent the answer. But how about hire some awareness groups to help them get into some of the programs Like The Road Home, or the Denver Rescue Mission program.

Noelle Brownson
Noelle Brownson

yea, I get it Garrett, not a fan of police in general. But patrolling of populated communities is generally recommended at some level. There are decent cops and I've had experiences with them as well as the horrific ones. I think it is generally accepted that police presence has an overall effect of lowering crime.

Suni Daze
Suni Daze

ridiculous !!! Lets give the cops more money to misuse ~~

Steven R. Leal
Steven R. Leal

I think the prescience of more police will make all especially the tourists feel safes ,, at night..they need to rid the Mall of, the Greenpeace people so annoying.

John Pinnick
John Pinnick

I think the police force in general needs to be examined before any more money is put into the system. The current training and civilian interaction is beyond horrific and should be reviewed and adjusted accordingly.

Dev Adams
Dev Adams

I'm pretty sure it's not a pro-homeless movement, but rather a "let's treat people like people and help them, instead of punishing them for something that may very well be out of their control"-movement.

Noelle Brownson
Noelle Brownson

priorities are not at all misplaced. With the number of apartment units coming on the market in the near future, it would be irresponsible not to police for the exponential increase in population.

WillieStortz
WillieStortz topcommenter

Tania Valenzuela shouldn't concern herself with how the taxpayers spend their money, because I'm sure he doesn't paying any taxes like the working people of this city do. 


The homeless situation downtown has gotten out of hand and the working taxpayers deserve to be protected from these thieving junkies.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

Complacent Denver does not realize that we waste most of the money supposedly being spent on the homeless -- the criminalization of sleeping outdoors and most of the impetus behind this effort to increase the number of police patrolling the Ballpark neighborhood and on the Mall is part of this misdirection of effort and tax revenue.  Our present policy discriminates against, brutalizes, and marginalizes the homeless, at great public expense -- let us consider how much more productively the monies now being spent subsidizing ratbag hotel owners on Colfax and on targeting the homeless for harassment and selective enforcement of the Law might be directed!  Building a well-regulated, livable dormitory providing short-term housing for those who need it is an obvious start; providing for those who want to engage in low-impact urban camping is something else we should explore -- both would be far cheaper than our present plan to wage war on the homeless!


There is an obvious solution to our real problem, which is the undue influence exerted over municipal politics by the (Downtown) Denver (Business) Partnership, and that is for people of conscience in Denver to call for a complete boycott of its members.  Let it put as many police on the 16th Street Mall as it wants.  In response, conduct marches up and down the Mall; chant "Boycott Denver, Boycott Police Abuse" at the tourists dining outside, and let's see how the Partnership reacts!  Progressive people's efforts have given Denver a mostly-unwarranted cachet, and those deriving the most benefit from the perception are also the meanest and greediest.  Denver needs representation for its poor and middle income residents in government.

AlwaysHiring
AlwaysHiring

The state pig by nature can only grow in power and numbers, never shrink. Criminalizing a human being for being mentally ill and homeless is an idea that could only come from a disgusting authoritarian regime and the monkeys that enforce their dictates.....

GOAWAY
GOAWAY

We sure would love to see people who are so friggin stupid as to move to an area that has a high concentration of homeless people, then bitch about it, move the hell OUT. *You* are the one who was dumb enough to move to an area like this and then expect everything to change for your ass. Dont like the neighborhood? GTFO

GOAWAY
GOAWAY

Are you so stupid as to not be able to ignore them? Apparently.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

How many additional police do we need to become a police state?

Maybe if people would quit acting like such asses, we wouldn't have so many nervous little nanny state conservatives whining for a police state.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

The homeless have as much right to The Mall as you do, chump.

mcmcdaniel802221
mcmcdaniel802221

@WillieStortz He doesn't paying taxes because he's a she.  Did you even read the thing?  It has pictures and everything!

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@RobertChase


Gee Bobbie, I think the bleeding hearts should offer their own homes to the homeless --- problem solved.


How come bleeding heart liberals always want to tell others how to act and spend their money, but would never, ever act the same way or spend any of their own money?


The liberal dichotomy! 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@GOAWAY ... like the same exploitative NIMBY cunts who move near an existing airport or operating landfill because the property is way cheaper, then whine and complain about the pre-existing noise / activity in an attempt to get it shut down so they can PROFITEER from increased property values.

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