Several homeless people in Denver gathered Wednesday for the first hearing of a class-action lawsuit accusing the city of violating civil rights following several homeless sweeps, Fox News reported.
The city cleared out the homeless from areas that were being gentrified overe the summer and therefore violated their civil rights to be treated equally under the law and protected from unreasonable search and seizures, the lawsuit states in part.
During the hearing, in which the judge offered advice on how to speed up the lawsuit, accusations against Denver Mayor Michael Hancock were dismissed because as a public official he qualifies for immunity. Cases brought against him require evidence that he has violated the law, the Colorado Independent reported. Privileges such as these protect officials who regularly make difficult decisions that make them targets for lawsuits.
Julie Smith, a spokeswoman for the city's human services department stated that people are typically given fair warning prior to actions taken against them. "These are complex challenges, and we strive to be as compassionate as possible while also ensuring safety and public health for all Denver residents," she said.
There is a chance that this group will see justice in its favor. Last month, Clark County in Washington was found liable after seizing possessions from the homeless, including documents, tents, medication, stoves and clearing encampments. The county paid out $250,000 to those affected.
In 2016, Colorado ranked 14th in the United States with 11.5 percent of overall poverty. States have ways of making homelessness illegal by placing curfews on parks, outlawing sharing food, sleeping in vehicles, camping and more, Talk Poverty reported.
"That is the job of the city to try to find the balance and I think they have tipped over in favor of the businesses and done nothing for the civil liberties of those that are homeless," American Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman Denise Maes said.