Statement of ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley:
The ACLU of Colorado opposes the use of private contractors to perform police actions on the 16th Street Mall. While the Downtown Denver Partnership and city officials are concerned with “perceptions of safety” on the Mall, this approach carries the potential for real civil liberties violations, racial and economic profiling, and the undermining of reforms by the Denver Police Department intended to improve community trust in law enforcement.
The 16th Street Mall is a public place. The Downtown Denver Partnership has no more right to dictate who uses the Mall than do the people they clearly want to evict from it. Combined with recent revelations that the City made payment for anti-homeless sweeps to a private contractor out of the homeless services donation fund, it is clear that this administration is having difficulty distinguishing public versus private functions and protecting the rights of all members of the community equally.
The ACLU of Colorado takes no issue with police patrolling the Mall and responding to actual crime. We do take issue with police harassing people who are doing nothing more than sitting, leaning, performing, or peacefully asking for charity. And we take serious issue with unaccountable private contractors paid for by business interests patrolling a public space.