Police in downtown Denver cleared a tent village of homeless activists Thursday night.
Denver Homelessness Out Loud has been trying to establish housing on a vacant land near Denver's Curtis Park. The activists defied an eviction notice to remove a tent village from the property Thursday morning.
Residents of the village say that after they missed the eviction deadline, police announced a grace period until Dec. 20. If that promise was made, it didn't hold.
"Police came and told us to tear the tents down or we were going to jail," said Ray Lyall, an activist with DHOL and a resident of the village.
Around 30 people with 15 tents had occupied property known as Sustainability Park.
It was not the first time that a DHOL activist had been forcibly removed from the land. The group tried building a number of tiny houses there on Oct. 24 without permission. The action ended with 10 arrested and the homes removed.
The tent camp was on land that has been a public housing project and an urban farm. The Denver Housing Authority recently sold the land to TreeHouse Development to build market-priced housing. The company plans to build "townhouses and condominiums for sale from the high $200Ks" according to its website. Ten percent of the project is reserved for low-income housing in accordance with Denver law.
Clem Rinehart, a partner with TreeHouse, says his company requested the protestors be removed from the land. TreeHouse employees were at Sustainability Park when police cleared the tent village.
Rinehart says he never made a formal agreement to grant the grace period, but told two protestors he'd give them time if they could find a new location for the camp.
"We were open to a conversation to some way to take it off our plate and put it on to the city's plate. We got no assurance that was," said Rhinehart. "Anything that they construed from that conversation was built around on a false hope, I guess."
He also say DHOL has put his company in a terrible position as new land owners.
"We're not in the business of kicking people with nowhere to go off of our land, but the point is it's private land," said Rhinehart. "We have a lot of concerns about liability."
DHOL says the occupation was meant to protest Denver's urban camping ban and demand land for a village of tiny homes. The activists called their planned community Resurrection Village. It's a nod to Martin Luther King Jr., who built Resurrection City on the National Mall in 1969.
"If anything, it would enhance our community," explained DHOL activist Sheridan Boddie. "We want homes. We don't want to be incriminated for being homeless. We want to be accepted in public spaces."
The plan for Resurrection Village follows similar models in Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon.
Treehouse has fenced off the area around the former tent village. DHOL organizers have scheduled a meeting Friday evening to decide a future course of action.
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