Press Release: Judge Martinez Rules on Preliminary Injunction:
On December 15th and 16th, 2020, and on January 11, 2012 Federal District 10 Judge Martinez heard our case against the City of Denver and the State of Colorado for violating constitutional rights by sweeping people without homes and with nowhere to go – even in a global pandemic.
This suit demands that sweeps be halted, at least during the COVID pandemic, to protect the health and safety of the community with and without housing – as in line with CDC guidance. On top of this, the suit addresses that, “Over the past year, and in a blatant effort to skirt a settlement agreement entered into between Denver and a class of its homeless population, Denver officials have repeatedly showed up at homeless encampments without notice, flatly told homeless residents to move along (“to where?” is the obvious question to this nonsensical command), and seized their property (often discarding it).”
Plaintiffs for this case lost all their property in sweeps, including a mass sweep of Lincoln Park conducted by the City and State together on July 29th, 2020 with no notice. These same hundreds of people have been chased around the City in sweep after sweep since that time.
Judge Martinez’ ruling is a mixed bag. Judge Martinez partially granted and partially denied our request. Although we did not achieve the preliminary injunction that we were seeking, there were clear affirmations of humanity and basic rights for unhoused individuals. Judge Martinez affirmed resident’s right to have notice and upheld the seven day notice “prior to initiating a large-scale encumbrance cleanup performed by DOTI, or a DDPHE-ordered temporary area restriction of such encampments”.
Furthermore, The Denver Defendants can only conduct a large scale encumbrance cleanup sweep in less than 7 days “in the event that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, DDPHE, and/or Denver Public Health, singly or in combination, determine that there exists reasonable, evidence-based reasons to believe that a public health or safety risk exists which requires the undertaking of such encampment sweeps with less than seven days’ advance notice to the residents of those encampments.
Such determination(s) must be in writing, must provide a reasonably detailed explanation of the public health basis(es) for the determination, and it/they must be published in the authoring agency(ies) official online website prior to the Denver Defendants undertaking any such homeless encampment sweep”.
This raises the level of accountability for the city’s agencies involved in the sweeping of our unhoused community members. Judge Martinez also ruled that “in no event, however, may any homeless encampment sweep take place with less than 48 hours’ advance notice being given to the residents of the affected encampments”.
Meaning that police officers just can’t show up and harrass unhoused folks and threaten their removal. While this isn’t a total win, it shows that the unhoused have rights too and that the City of Denver is violating the constitution. We’ll take it. Onward…
Towards Rights, Dignity, Housing.