Denver’s camping ban is on trial this week as three homeless defendants contest tickets for sleeping outside with blankets.
The ban, which has been in place for five years, is rarely enforced: Police prefer to issue warnings and urge people to “move along” to shelters or other areas rather than write tickets. In 2016, Denver Police issued only nine camping tickets.
But on Nov. 28, defendants Jerry Burton and Randy Russell stood their ground and received tickets. Later that night, while camping outside the City and County Building, both Burton and Russell received additional tickets and police confiscated their camping gear as evidence. Terese Howard, a member of advocacy group Denver Homeless Out Loud, was also cited.
The three have pleaded not guilty and now face a jury trial to challenge the policy, which they say is more of a “survival ban” than a camping ban. Mayor Michael Hancock has urged police not to confiscate sleeping bags or blankets, but the case will be the first official challenge of the ban.
The Denver Police Department says officers provide rides to shelters, share information about available resources and give multiple warnings before issuing tickets.
Attorney Jason Flores-Williams, who is representing the defendants, will focus this week on whether his clients violated the law as it stands. But he believes that this issue goes deeper, and that the camping ban violates the constitutional right to due process and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is not involved in this case, has called the ban “cruel,” saying that it ultimately allows people to sleep outside only if they are willing to forego blankets.
The trial, which began yesterday morning, continues today at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse. During jury selection yesterday, several potential jurors expressed reservations about the camping ban.
Just a week after a Muslim place of worship was vandalized in Fort Collins, an area lawmaker has introduced a bill that some call anti-Muslim.
Republican Sen. Vicki Marble, whose district includes a small portion of Fort Collins but not the Islamic Center, is sponsoring the measure, which on its face appears only to require Colorado courts to disregard foreign laws.
If approved, the bill would carry the title of the “American Laws for American Courts Act,” which originates from a network of anti-Muslim groups, including several referred to as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its aim, as stated by many of the groups: to block American courts from adhering to Shariah law, the Muslim code of conduct.
It’s already being referred to as a “message” bill: intended to rally supporters but with zero chance of passage, especially in the Democratic-controlled House. Marble said her intent is to protect vulnerable women and children, noting there have been about 50 cases in recent years, mostly in family courts, where American courts have sided with foreign citizens, based on laws from foreign countries.
The measure is scheduled for its first hearing on April 12 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
At least seven large oil and gas operators are planning to ramp up their Colorado production this year, to the tune of more than $4 billion in investments, thanks to a boost in the global price of oil.
That’s good news for Coloradans looking for oil and gas jobs, and for state and local revenues. But new drilling operations are expected to increasingly target residential areas, so for residents who are pushing keep drilling out of their neighborhoods, it’s a sign that the fight has only begun.
In an attempt to boost sluggish oil prices, OPEC nations agreed to cut total oil production by about 5 percent last November, and the price has already started to rise.
It’s impossible to tell what will happen, but companies are already starting to respond. Colorado now has 28 producing rigs, compared to 17 last year, and the state oil and gas regulatory agency received three times as many drilling applications in February 2017 than in February 2016, according to Baker Hughes, an oil and gas service company.
That portends more conflict between homeowners and drilling operators. New drilling technologies now allow operators to drill up to 40 wells per well pad, instead of just three or four, and those well pads are popping up in residential areas as drillers go where the fossil fuels are. In communities across the Front Range, residents are finding themselves fighting for a cause they never thought they would join.
In Lafayette earlier this year, scores of homeowners repeatedly packed city council meetings to push for a “climate bill of rights” that would codify the right to a healthy environment — and legalize civil disobedience if that right were threatened.
In Broomfield, interest in oil and gas activity was so high that the city council had to rent out an arena for a night in order to accommodate all the people.
The latest in the ongoing fight occurred in Boulder, where the county commissioners recently passed regulations it says are the strictest in the state. A large group of vocal Boulderites says this isn’t enough.
For more on these and other stories go to ColoradoIndependent.com
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