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Protesters Clash With Police Over Sitting On The 16th Street Mall

By Kelly Werthmann

DENVER (CBS4) - A handful of people were issued citations, some even arrested, Friday afternoon for sitting on the sidewalk on the 16th Street Mall.

About 15 people protesting a city ordinance clashed with Denver police when they were told they needed to stand or sit elsewhere.

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"We're just protesting for the right to rest," Cassandra Marcom, one of the protestors, told CBS4. "We have a right to sit down."

A City and County of Denver ordinance, put in place in 2005, restricts pedestrians from sitting or lying down in the public right-of-way in a 120-block area of downtown. It states: "It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly sit or lie down in the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District upon the surface of any public right-of-way or upon any bedding, chair, stool, or any other object placed upon the surface of the public right-of-way between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m."

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Denver Police Lt. Kevin Edling said it is a safety ordinance.

"This is just one of the tools that are used for public safety, to keep the sidewalks clear, to keep incumbencies out of the way for what is supposed to be the gem of our city," Edling told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann.

Shelle Clarke lives downtown and said she sees large groups of people sitting along the pedestrian mall frequently. She said there are plenty of other places for people to sit.

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"People can't get through," Clarke said. "There's litter everywhere, it is filthy. It detracts from this beautiful state and the city," Clarke said.

Yet protesters argue restricting where people can sit is unconstitutional.

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"Yeah, there may be an ordinance against it, but it is our right," Macom said. "And they're taking that right away from us."

Edling said his officers will always issue a verbal warning first followed by a written citation for those who don't comply.

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"Our goal is compliance, not arrests," Edling said. "The jails are full enough without having to put people in there for not being compliant."

Violators of the ordinance could also be fined up to $999 or even a year in jail.

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now reports for CBS4 News at 10 and is always open to story ideas. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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