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Denver council chambers fill with people protesting urban camping ban

The Denver City Council passed the urban camping ban 10 years ago this week.

DENVER — All but one Denver City Council member walked out during public comment for more than an hour Monday night as people experiencing homelessness spoke about the problems they face every day.

The council's chambers were filled with people protesting the city's urban camping ban, which the council passed 10 years ago this week. 

Monday's regular meeting was supposed to start at 5:30 p.m., but nearly every councilmember was absent until 6:45 p.m. – when most of the people who came to speak during public comment had left.

 A spokesperson for the council said the president called for a recess after the crowd got "unruly" and "out of control." 

Public comment takes place for 30 minutes before council discusses the agenda each week. Every member left the chamber at that 30-minute mark except councilmember Candi CdeBaca, who stayed to listen to more people. CdeBaca said breaks between public comment and the meeting are not common. 

More than 50 people signed up to speak Monday night. Many said they live or used to live on the streets. They expressed fear and frustration about the way they have been treated. Ten years later, they said they don't believe homeless sweeps are making the city any better.

"Denver is throwing away taxpayer money giving contractors money to provide services to homeless people and not housing the homeless population," one speaker said. "This is absolute insanity."

The speakers called for more affordable housing and asked the city to spend money differently to help people experiencing homelessness. 

"We're all out there trying to get jobs, but when we leave our tent, we come back to nothing," another speaker said. 

Advocates for those experiencing homelessness have planned several protests for this week, including one on Saturday in front of the city and county building. 

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