Denver Park Rangers Take Sleeping Bag, Tent from Houseless Man in 25 Degree Weather

Denver, CO – On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, despite below freezing temperatures and snowfall, daily sweeps of unhoused Denver residents continued.

As usual, Denver police, city workers, and park rangers descended on people keeping warm under blankets and inside their tents and told them to “move along” or risk getting a camping ban ticket.

The Unauthorized Camping Ordinance, or camping ban, states:

It shall be unlawful for any person to camp upon any private [or public] property without the express written consent of the property owner or the owner’s agent, and only in such locations where camping may be conducted in accordance with any other applicable city law.


‘Camp’ means to reside or dwell temporarily in a place, with shelter. The term ‘shelter’ includes, without limitation, any tent, tarpaulin, lean-to, sleeping bag, bedroll, blankets, or any form of cover or protection from the elements other than clothing. The term ‘reside or dwell’ includes, without limitation, conducting such activities as eating, sleeping, or the storage of personal possessions.”

According to Marcus Hyde, a member of local advocacy organization Denver Homeless Out Loud:

We know that these laws are meant to help push development by using police to scare and intimidate, harass and arrest anyone that developers don’t want to see in front of their new condos.”

Eric Jackson, an unhoused Denver resident, left his spot along the South Platte River, where he has been surviving for many months, to attend to some business downtown. Two of his friends were watching over his belongings when park rangers approached them and asked them to remove their belongings from the area and “move along.”

Aftermath of Denver park rangers throwing around Eric Jackson’s belongings on November 7, 2017. Screen shot of Eric Jackson’s video.

Even though Jackson’s friends were there watching his belongings, the park rangers told them since Jackson was not there, it was abandoned property. Therefore they entered Jackson’s tent without consent and began throwing everything that was inside of it outside onto the ground, leaving trash and debris everywhere.

The park rangers took Jackson’s sleeping bag, blankets, and his tent, yet left all of his other property on the ground. Jackson and his comrades believe the park rangers only took the survival gear to force them into shelters or force them to move farther out of sight and out of mind.

Jackson wrote the following letter to Supervisor Park Ranger Eric Knopinski:

Jackson has posted four videos on his YouTube page in the past two months showing sweeps along the South Platte River and exposing how the city treats its unhoused population.

Below is a video he made on November 7, when he arrived back at his spot on the river:

Jackson has not received a response from Knopinski.

Another documented instance of survival gear being taken is our video below, from November 28, 2016, of Denver police confiscating sleeping bags and tents as “evidence of illegal camping.”

As sweeps continue, so does the class-action lawsuit against the city of Denver for carrying them out.

On Monday, August 14, 2017, Jason Flores-Williams and Andy McNulty, who have been representing the plaintiff class pro-bono, submitted a motion for summary judgement (PDF) to the United States District Court of Colorado, Judge William J. Martinez.

A motion for summary judgment asks the court to decide the case, before trial, in favor of the party making the motion. The party that files a motion for summary judgment is usually arguing that there is no material question of fact and that the opposing party cannot win under the law.

On Monday evening, the attorney’s representing the city of Denver also submitted a motion for summary judgement (PDF) to Judge Martinez. Therefore, both parties are hoping the Judge will rule in their favor considering all of the same evidence, prior to a trial.

The last pretrial hearing for the lawsuit was scheduled for November 8, 2017, however because the judge has yet to rule on the motions for summary judgement, the hearing has been postponed. No date has been decided.

Unicorn Riot will continue coverage of the class-action lawsuit against Denver, and other issues affecting Denver’s unhoused population, see the links below for our past coverage.

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Unicorn Riot coverage on Denver’s housing crisis and unhoused community:
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