After videos of Denver police officers confiscating blankets from homeless people during harsh winter conditions as evidence of their violation of the city's "urban camping" ban went viral, Mayor Michael Hancock ordered police to stop the practice.
“Every step we take is intended to connect people with safe and warm places and critical supportive services. We never intended to take the belongings that people need to keep warm," he said in a statement, somewhat paradoxically—city police officers took blankets, which only exist to keep people warm. "Therefore, I have directed Denver police to cease taking camping equipment, like tents and blankets, when enforcing the unauthorized camping ordinance through the end of April.”
The city of Denver has been carrying out anti-homelessness sweeps since this summer, which have been met with increasing public outrage and, earlier this year, a highly-publicized class-action lawsuit working its way through the courts.
In a statement, the ACLU of Colorado condemned the city. "From the inappropriate use of a Homeless Services Donations Fund to forcibly move, harass, and take the property of unhoused persons to increasingly aggressive sweeps of people experiencing homelessness, ratcheting up arrests of people whose only crime is to have nowhere to live, and now the use of police resources to confiscate blankets and survival gear on bitter cold nights, the City of Denver is exhibiting a level of cruelty that should bring deep shame to Mayor Hancock and other city officials."
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.