Standing Rock of Homelessness

Posted: December 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

Standing Rock of Homelessness

30 November 2016

“Don’t let New Denver become the Standing Rock of homelessness,” the executive director of the Buck Foundation says, while the handcuffs cut off his circulation to his left hand. “Would one of you fine officers mind arresting me again, so I can go get my car out of the in-pound lot?”

It is day seven of the sweeps of the streets, the city’s response to the homeless crisis surrounding the Denver Rescue Mission and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

“We are going to keep coming back until you folks decide to find another place to sleep. We cannot have you lying out here on the sidewalk. It is a safety issue. Please move along quietly, so we do not have to arrest anybody. If you are arrested, do realize that we will be confiscating your sleeping bags, belongings, and tent as evidence. It is against the law for you to lie down, cover yourself, or set up any camps. Your cooperation is appreciated. Oh, and don’t forget to have a great day!”

The commander opens the door of the cruiser, and throws the megaphone into the back seat. Smiling to himself, he sits in his car, watching the snow as it slaps against the windshield. The faceplate inside the car reads 13 degrees. Steam rises from his coffee cup like a small smoke signal in a cup.

“Commander, I have a bone to pick with you. You promised us that you would take our questions to the mayor, and not arrest anybody, today. What are you doing, now? Do you see that poor woman in the wheel-chair over there? Where do you suggest that she goes, once you push her off the corner? You may not know this, but there have been two miscarriages on this block, just this week. Do you really care about the people that you serve and protect?”

Ignoring the questions, the commander puts the cruiser into drive, and rolls slowly down the street, a sneer painted across his face.

“Someone needs to create a handbook entitled ‘The Urban Campers Guide to New Denver,’ which lists the service providers, and the resources that they provide. For example, where is the best place to eat on Mondays? The Spaghetti Feed on 16th Ave and Grant, of course! They provide donuts and coffee on Monday mornings, and then they serve a fantastic meal, from 1pm until 5pm. People are moving here in droves, and I am sure that they do not know where to go for a hot meal, a shower, or a place do their laundry. Have you heard about the Laundry Truck? The program just started in the last couple of months. Can you believe this? They will actually be parking outside of various venues, plugging into the Denver Water Department hydrant, and providing clean clothes for the homeless.”

“If you haven’t noticed that we have a housing crisis here in New Denver, you must be in a coma.”

16 December 2016 Friday, 10:30PM
Kaihanga taiki i to tatou iwi i te hipi mo’a e toru.

The narrative had spoken for itself, during the trial. Pleading not guilty by reasonable insanity. A thirty year sentence in the meanest paragraph house of shame, fading away into another day. Sometimes, I can see right into myself, burning inside and alone. We were never real to begin wiith, I just have not confessed to myself. I brought you here to tear into the middle of me. The laborer’s back in the final act of hospital reality. Damned you, Dentists, get out of my mouth! Tearing away at the roots of bones with a purpose. Empty holes, and he barely makes a sound. There is always the Pain, Fell asleep dying shame. You are sentenced to lie here next to strangers to your left and the right.

If you ask him, he says that he wants to die, out on the streets. Sleeping on cardboard, back against the church, he finds sleep in the graveyards and holy places. Do you believe in God? Frozen legs begging the churches to be opened up at midnight.

“Open your doors, at midnight. Put your money and mouth to the test. Let the homeless sleep in pews of the church, museum, library. Midnight slumber parties in the art museum. Hey, St. John’s Cathedral, I want to pray at midnight. Open the doors, please, and Thank You.

They have been digging up graveyards for centuries, robbing them blind. Capitalizing on the execution, it took the jury exactly 40 minutes (lunch was 30 minutes long), to convict him of trespassing. We really did think that my trial would help the other nine defendents. I was sentenced to 15 days, for the same crime, as the year’s probations, or dismissed all together.

It is not difficult for a prisoner of sound mind and body to realize his role in the jailhouse. Twenty three hours in the screaming coughing cursing, and an hour a day to walk the basketball court, or do push-ups on your fingertips. Welcome home, city and county of Denver, i have not seen the end of our relationship. As a fourth-generation Denverite, I cannot be more proud of you. Gentrification and pollution. Love you for that. The brown cloud hangs over the big black snake named Nowhere, Disunited Estates of ShAmeriKKKa, in the town of Bark. There once lived a Bard in the town of Bark.

Amoxicillin and Fireball Cinnamon Whisky(tm), smoking American Spirits(tm), and CO marijuana in the 1998 Ford 350 camper named Sally. In the dark, all of us have secrets.

Tonight we are calling it Fort Denver. Fort Denver stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Council. There will no longer be drilling along what is known as the Ogala Aquifer. No more fracking in the mountains of the Rockies. No more strip-mining the mountains of their trees, their cover from the sun.

General George Razee fought against the US Army massacre called Sand Creek. He did not sleep again until he was dead. They stole your soul! cried the old woman before he split her head open like a cantaloupe.

He is dying on the streets. The cold cement makes for a difficult day ahead. There are no more Tomorrows for those of us who cower against the cold rain under tarps of hope.

Dear Santa,

I know that you probably way behind on our agreement. What do you mean that they have unionized? This cannot happen here, rants Santa of Santa’s Sweatshop. You do not want to know what they did for the rest of the year. It is only fair that the elves are given a percentage of the gifts that Santa gives away. Santa has never had to pay taxes or face tariffs and stand-in-the-corner and think about you did, ruler slapped against knuckles.

Signed,
Anonymous

Santa Elves Union North Pole elect their first president, an elf from the sweatshop who rose above his class not knowing that he would ever be King.

As soon as this storm slips away,
he used to say
for the last forty days
until the Devil named him
Blizzard. The winter is here to claim her crops.

Somewhere in South Dakota,
a little north of the Badlands,
tasting the inside of the wind
cold is cold everywhere

Those savages pulled out six teeth,
and he did not flinch
mourning the best of yesterday
another year of dying all over again.

Nothing could stop me from running away
but then I was the Other
Chased out of the garden
by a Big Black Snake.

My church is the water
and the future is nothing but black
Take to the air
beg the Sun to stay around for a year or two
renew the lease on land that has never be owned

Treaties and Handcuffs
Broken, both of them
Stories that could not rest
until someone told them to go home.

Sponsor Resurrection City

Posted: April 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

Congratulations – your campaign, Sleep Where? Decriminalize Homelessness is now LIVE! You are now ready to start raising funds and awareness!

We need to sell 50 t-shirts in 27 days, ending Friday, May 13th, 2016.

Gildan Ultra Cotton T-shirt
$ 20 Unisex – Red
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Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL) works with and for people who experience homelessness to help protect and advocate for dignity, rights and choices for people experiencing homelessness. We commit our efforts toward goals affirmed and raised by homeless people, within our organization and throughout the homeless community. We strive to add our strengths together to create ways of living in which everyone has a safe place they can call home.

https://denverhomelessoutloud.org/

By Eric Verlo
NOT MY TRIBE
– 3/02/2016 8:28PM MDT

DENVER, COLORADO- In the witness stand Delbert “DJ” Razee spoke eloquently about the Tiny House movement and Resurrection Village, a local experiment sponsored by advocates Denver Homeless Out Loud to suggest one remedy for the house-less of Colorado. Razee’s lawyer Frank Ingham made fools of the Denver Housing Authority stooge and four police officers who testified against the chronically homeless English Lit grad. Razee was charged with trespass on public land, on an empty city block which was supposed to have been used for affordable housing. Razee was among ten homeless activists arrested one night in November for refusing to vacate several very small structures they’d erected on property which the DHA was converting from a community garden to gentrified condos. After two days of trial, a jury of well-housed peers found Razee guilty, lest others of his untouchable caste darken their doorsteps or the vacant lots near them. On Thursday March 3rd at 8:30am DJ Razee reports to Judge Beth Faragher for sentencing.

It was an amazing trial. While his compatriots sought continuances or plea deals, DJ held his ground and never waived speedy trial. DJ was impatient to put the Denver Housing Authority on the stand. Their representative Ryan Tobin blew off a February 3rd subpoena, but when DJ’s lawyer Frank Ingham cross-examined Tobin on the 22nd, Tobin incriminated himself more than Razee. Ryan Tobin was the DHA goon who pressed charges against the activists for trespassing on the public lot opposite his $650K home. Tobin also sought a protection order against one of the activists, which restrained that person from approaching not just Tobin but the entire public lot. Can one do that? The protection order didn’t come up at DJ’s trial.

DHA
The DHA is a quasi-municipal entity which handles city property meant to accomodate lower income residents. The DHA is Denver’s second largest property owner. The city blocks at 26th and Lawrence used to be low income housing but have been razed for years. More recently a portion was used for a community garden but the DHA was evicting the urban farmers to sell the block to a high rise developer.

The logic offered was that DHA could use the proceeds of land speculation to build more affordable housing elsewhere. That strategy might impress business people but it’s clearly absurd. Instead of being a counterbalance to gentrification, this housing authority thinks its role is to be a tool for displacement.

Tobin’s testimony will benefit all the Tiny House defendants, depending on their juries. DJ is only the first of the arrestees to be brought to trial. Tobin admitted he had never clearly expressed who had the authority to issue a trespass order. Tobin also couldn’t say who precisely was present when he made his initial announcement to the group, although he claimed it was “everyone”. This was a chief contention of the city attorneys.

How about an sidebar for activists, as a sort of debrief:

On Tobin’s first visit, someone among the activists called EVERYONE together to listen to his announcement, austensibly to have a dialog. As a matter of practice this was regretable. First, because the action was already underway and there was no expectation that dialog could or should redirect the action. Second, it presented exactly what an authority issuing a formal notice needed: everyone in one place to BE GIVEN NOTICE.

Two, the city prosecutors used a video recording of the event, made by the activists themselves, to prove that the trespassers had received notice. While the taped discussion was not so clear, and the many subsequent announcements over police bullhorns were garbled, it didn’t help that the videographer offered narration to make what was being said explicit to viewers and bystanders. Offering, for example: “so basically we’ve been given notice that if we don’t leave the cops will come to arrest us.” Which alas is the confirmation prosecutors need that lawful orders were understood.

Although the city sought to incriminate Razee with the video, the footage provided wonderful context for the larger issue, the paradox faced by the homeless, had the jury been receptive. It also captured Ryan Tobin’s cavalier attitude about housing inequities. When he was asked by the group “Move along to where?” Tobin made this thoughtless suggestion: “Where did you come from?” Boos from his audience at the scene were echoed by the viewers in the courtroom.

Ryan Tobin couldn’t identify DJ at all, neither that he’d given DJ notice to leave, nor that he’d ever seen DJ before in his life. DJ described Tobin’s failure to recognize him in a FB post:

For six weeks, from October 23rd until December 9th, I shoveled the walks, carted away the trash, and resided at Resurrection Village at the same location as Sustainability Park, and Ryan Tobin who lives directly across the street from the property, testified that he has never seen my face. Of course, he hadn’t- I am one of the invisible people who is a criminal in the eyes of the housed, and the law.

DPD
The testimony of four DPD officers was also self-damning. Neither commander, nor lieutenants, nor arresting officer could fully justify why they deployed in combat gear. Even the jurors were set back by the militarized atmosphere, the helicopter overhead, and the overabundance of cops for a TRESPASS INFRACTION. About the helicopter, a lieutenant claimed she called in a mere “fly-by” but police video proved it hovered for nearly an hour.

One amusing aspect for many of us in the audience, was how the DPD witnesses would always refer to the offending activists as “Occupiers”. Denver Homeless Out Loud, in its need to gain cooperation with civic and law enforcement entities, takes great pains to distance itself from its roots in Occupy Denver. At any demonstration in Denver, an “Occupy” presence, usually merely the familiar OD faces, always means an escalated police escort and unseen armored-up reserves. While it may have been inaccurate to label the Tiny House trespassers as occupiers, it’s true that when protesters are holding their ground in Denver, refusing police orders, they are occupying. Like the Black Bloc, it’s not a who, it’s a tactic.

Attending the trials of activists is worth it if only to hear the testimony of the police. You learn what they’re trained to do, what their objectives are, and what they think you’re doing. Most officers, even commanders, think we need a permit to demonstrate. HA!

The first four witnesses could not place DJ at the scene, but the arresting officer finally fingered the accused. Asked if he could identify DJ, he pointed to the defendant’s table and described DJ’s courtroom attire for the record. You have to wonder if police witnesses look to the defendant’s chair by default, without regard to what they remember. How could they remember so many arrestees, months after the incident? I’m guessing that anyone sitting in DJ’s seat would have been ID’d as DJ.

I pose this question because of how DJ’s arresting officer was allowed to identify DJ on the crime scene video. Instead of letting the video play through and asking the officer if DJ appeared on the video and where, DJ’s prosecutors froze the video when the camera lingered on DJ and then asked the officer to ID him. The defense counsel objected vehemently and when overruled he motioned for a mistrial. So the judge reconsidered and granted Ingham’s motion. She then asked the jury to disregard the officer’s response and she made the prosecutor play the video again without prompting the officer, even though of course now he knew at which frame DJ appeared.

The jury
The entire trial was so farcical and so mercenary considering the inconsequence of the charge, that audience members were certain the jury was empathic to DJ and the victimization of Denver’s homeless. Nope. We knew from Voir Dire that the jury included an entrepreneur, a trader, and an inheritance consultant. All but one of the NPR listeners had been eliminated but we hoped she’d be a holdout. It was not to be. When the jury emerged with its verdict, the foreman carrying the written decision was the fratboy day trader.

Fratboy had been the juror submitting written questions to supplement what neither attorney had asked. We knew from the bent of his inquiries that he was playing a role that defense attorneys fear, a self-deputized investigator for the prosecutor, filling in the gaps of the testimony, seeking, if even unconsciously, to eliminate the “reasonable doubt” which is supposed to remain as a reason to aquit. That’s why defense attorneys generally object to Colorado’s rule allowing jurors to interject with their own questions to witnesses. On the plus side, such questions do offer both sides a hint of where those jurors are leaning.

As Denver gentrifies, it should be no surprise that juries will represent the affluent more than the demographics being displaced. DJ’s jury had absolutely zero concern for punishing a homeless man for his elegant protest gesture or for his unresolved circumstance. They laughed and made no eye contact with the audience as they turned their backs to return to their homes and leave a homeless man in greater jeopardy with the penal system.

DJ was not tried by a jury of his peers. Can the homeless get justice in the US court system? American juries are racist and classist, but you’re unlikely to find someone more untouchable to jurors than someone who is dispossessed.

As activists, we’ve got to do something about these Denver juries. Advocating for jury nullification is not enough. Denver’s urban social climbers need a welcome-to-the-community brochure, or swift kicks in the ass until they acknowledge there’s a brotherhood of man.

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Comments

Comment from Dan Caldwell   (IP: 128.177.161.183)
Time: March 3, 2016, 8:32 pm

Reading through your “tiny homes” for ‘houseless people’ article, I was sadden to learn apparently nothing in the way of help can be expected by those houseless people who call Denver home. Your article also raises the question of what are the politics of this current mishandled debacle by the City of Denver’s Housing and Police authorities, in their ongoing attacks on those unfortunate people.

One of those unfortunate people who has gained some attention by his eloquent approach and response to this event is D. J. Razee. He was apparently sentenced today (March 3rd), to 15 days in the city jail and other puntitive punishments.

Razee was born and bred in Denver as where his family. I have known D. J. for twenty years. Notwithstanding any disparaging comments about D.J. by the authorities, he does strongly believe in justice and he believes houseless or “homeless” people are first and foremost Human Beings, with the same civil rights as every other human being.

Yet, it is well documented in the city police files and local television stations file video footage that homeless people are the targets for gang attack, school kids attack, assault with grevious bodily harm, and robbery. Those acts against these people while terrible, are mild in comparison to being beaten to death, decapitated while trying to rest in a city park, for example, all because a human being does not have a home.

If, a city can be judged by the way it treats the least of its citizens, surely the City Council, Denver Housing Authority and the Denver Police Department should be ashamed, and judged accordingly.

Best,
Dan Caldwell

https://www.gofundme.com/65z3wn85

D.J., like many people in Denver, has been experiencing homelessness. He has been on the front lines of the fight, even going to jail during Denver Homeless Out Loud’s heroic fight at Sustainability Park, where they attempted to set up Resurrection Village and had the tiny homes they had built confiscated.

He has had his laptop, phone, wallet, and sleeping bag stolen, and as you may have heard, there is a BIG STORM coming this weekend!

Let’s DO THIS, Denver! This is a small amount of money, but for those of us who are struggling, it can be insurmountable. But for many out there, this isn’t much — please help if you are able!!!

https://www.booster.com/sleep-where-decriminalize-homelessness

Denver Homeless Out Loud

Right 2 Rest Fest is Monday Jan 25!

Inline image 1

Organizations Commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with Western Days of Action in Support of Campaign Protecting the Civil Rights of Homeless People

When: Monday January 25th, 11am-3pm, 2016

Where: State Capitol Building (Colfax and Lincoln)

Last year 300 plus people gathered on the Capitol steps for the first “Right to Rest Fest” to gain momentum for the legislative hearings of the Right to Rest Act that year. The bill did not pass last year but the Right to Rest Act is back! in 2016 Representatives Salazar and Melton are again sponsoring the bill.

On Monday January 25th from 11am-3pm we will be back at the State Capitol for the Right to Rest Fest! Join us to speak out, eat food, listen to music, and call for the end of the criminalization of people living without homes!

In the spirit of Dr…

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Hey, at least they are doing their jobs…and four are standing over my shoulder at Denver Diner, as I type.

Denver Homeless Out Loud

COPS CAN’T TICKET YOU FOR PANHANDLING!

Image result for cardboard signs

Last week–as a result of a Federal District Court ruling that a Grand Junction panhandling ordinance is UNCONSTITUTIONAL (because it violates a person’s free speech rights)–Denver Police Chief Robert White instructed all Denver Police Department officers to stop ticketing people under the Denver Panhandling Ordinance (Section 38-132)!

This means cops SHOULD NOT ticket you for sitting or standing on public space asking for money, or flying a sign to do so, EVEN IF IT’S:

# Near a public toilet (public toilet?? What’s that???)

# Near an ATM machine

# Near a bus or shuttle stop

# Near the entrance to a building

# After dark

# Near an outdoor patio where food or drinks are served

BUT–You CAN still be ticketed if, in the course of panhandling, you:

* Touch or cause physical contact with someone against their will

* Interfere with the safe or free passage of a…

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