DENVER — People move through Denver's Union Station all day long, and soon there will be one less place to linger.
A crew contracted by RTD worked Thursday to demolish granite block benches outside the entrances to the bus concourses.
The plan is to replace the benches with pavers and landscaping outside the Wewatta and Chestnut pavilions to "further enhance pedestrian circulation and improve the greenspace of the greater Denver Union Station complex," RTD said in a statement.
RTD said the plan had been in the works for months. Advocates for people experiencing homelessness believe RTD demolished the benches to disperse homeless communities.
“If we build an environment where it’s harder for poor people to exist and use these kinds of things, you know, we’re just flat out being mean," Benjamin Dunning with Denver Homeless Out Loud said.
Substance abuse and mental health issues often draw Denver Police to Union Station. Officers made 120 arrests in October and 147 in November, Denver Police said.
In May 2019, Colorado passed legislation that reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of certain drugs. Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen told 9NEWS earlier this month he believed that law contributed to unwanted activity at Union Station.
"t makes it very difficult to hold people accountable," Pazen said. "And when we continue to see the same folks and arrest the same people over and over again, it's only exacerbating the safety concern that our community has."
RTD recently closed restrooms on the bus concourse level at Union Station to discourage drug use. A spokesperson said a trace amount of fentanyl was discovered in one of the bathrooms.
Dunning, with Denver Homeless Out Loud, sees the closure of the bathrooms and removal of the benches as tactics to move people along to somewhere else.
“These are important pieces of public infrastructure that should be available for everybody," Dunning said.
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