July 16, 2008

Hickenlooper, Tent State Meet To Discuss Protestors Camping In City Park

Closed-door discussions to resolve the issue of thousands of protestors congregating in City Park with nowhere to camp, since city law prohibits overnight camping in Denver's parks:
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper suggested alternative campsites and buses Tuesday to resolve a controversy over allowing thousands of protesters to camp in City Park during the Democratic National Convention, according to those involved in the closed-door discussions.

"We're open to any resolution," said Tent State University organizer Adam Jung, who is urging the city to allow anti-war demonstrators to pitch tents in City Park. He detailed conversations he had Tuesday with the mayor and other city officials.

The city issued an assembly permit for Tent State University in the southwest corner of the park as long as the group met certain conditions, such as appeasing the concerns of neighbors and the nearby Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

As many as 20,000 protesters are expected daily at Tent State University, Jung said. And he expects about 5,000 would like to camp overnight.

There's one hitch. City laws prohibit camping in the park.

The issue has roiled city officials, with some City Council members in favor of relaxing the camping ban and others saying doing so could create a dangerous mess for the park as well as set an unwise precedent.
Thousands of campers and hundreds of tents would be quite an unwelcome, and very likely unsanitary situation. Inclement weather would turn the park into a pit, and the availability of adequate security and facilities doesn't seem likely given Tent State's shaky reputation.

The precedent, however, would be enormous, but the city has itself to blame for granting the provisional park permit in the first place. Now Hickenlooper is forced to meet in private with protestors in order to figure out a way to accommodate the crowd expected in City Park. Suggesting buses and an alternative camp site raises questions about the city's commitment to being green--one that Jung points out--and where, exactly, the protestors would be bused from. It isn't likely that many suburbs would welcome thousands of protestors into their neighborhoods for the duration of the DNC.

And why is the Mayor meeting Tent State in private? It is not clear if a public hearing or some other procedure will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

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