Denver officials must give a week’s notice before homeless sweeps, federal judge rules

Denver officials must give seven days’ notice before clearing most illegal homeless encampments, a federal judge ordered Monday.

The injunction comes from a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado in October, seeking to stop the sweeps entirely. There are a few exceptions to the new ruling.

Though Attorney Andy McNulty had asked the judge to stop the sweeps, officially known as large-scale cleanups, as the lawsuit makes its way to trial, Judge William Martinez ruled that Denver must give a week’s notice before each sweep, large or small.

Martinez also found that city officials had not given such notice before several high-profile sweeps in 2020 because they sought to avoid the growing protests. The decision to clear the encampments with “effectively no advance notice to the residents were actually based, as Plaintiffs’ counsel has argued, on the possibility of additional (and vociferous) public scrutiny and the threat of First Amendment protected activity, and these managers’ preference to avoid the same,” he wrote.

McNulty called Monday’s order a “damning indictment” of the city’s practices.

“They were so afraid of people showing up to criticize their actions that they hid it from the public,” McNulty said.

City officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under Martinez’s order, on top of the week’s notice, city officials must also tell McNulty and the City Council member who represents the district when, where and why the sweep will happen.

In certain emergencies, city officials can clear out an encampment with a warning no less than two days in advance, Martinez wrote. But for that, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment must sign off and the city must provide a detailed written justification.

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