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Advocates File Lawsuit Over Homeless Sweep

DENVER (CBS4) - The City of Denver is facing legal action after a sweep through homeless camps earlier this year in which tents and other personal property were removed.

In early March, city officials were fed up with the personal items filling the street on the corners of Park Avenue West and Lawrence Street, outside the Denver Rescue Mission. City workers wound up clearing out the items after multiple warnings.

Homeless Camp Removed From Downtown Denver
The homeless camps in March (credit: CBS)

"The City and County have absolutely no right to take our possessions or to tell us we have no place to camp... I mean, this is our home," said one man.

Jason Flores-Williams, an attorney, is now representing nine people whose had items removed in the sweep. He is one of the homeless advocates who filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Denver on Thursday morning.

"If these things happened to Exxon, Nestle or Monsanto and their property was seized, taken without respecting their due process rights, the courts would be jammed for the next two years in litigation," said Flores-Williams.

Recently he described the city's camping ban, which was the basis for the city's action, as a "systematic evisceration of constitutional rights."

Attorney Jason Flores-Williams (credit: CBS)

"When I see a mass depravation of constitutional rights, then as an attorney I have a duty to act," Flores-Williams told CBS4 last week. "And what's going on in downtown Denver is they're taking American citizens who happen to be homeless -- and I want to be clear there is no such thing as homeless constitutional rights, there is simply constitutional rights -- and so when we saw this happening ... really there was no choice but to stand up and work with these people ... and take on the city in the name of the U.S. Constitution."

Flores-Williams says the city violated the fourth, eighth and 14th amendments of the Constitution.

Homeless Camp Removed From Downtown Denver
(credit: CBS)

One man said all his paperwork to prove his identity to apply for jobs was taken, "All of my documentation, my ID, my birth certificate, all of my paperwork, along with any kind of clothing I needed to get ready to go out there and work. Without all of our documentation we can't work, we can't work, we can't have a home."

An attorney for the city of Denver released a statement Thursday that read, "The city has not been served with a lawsuit by Denver Homeless Out Loud." Denver Homeless Out Loud is an advocacy group for homeless in the city.

It went on to state, "Once we receive the complaint, we will evaluate the claims and respond to them."

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