A scuffle between protesters and police led to an injury to Denver Public Schools director and activist Tay Anderson during a sweep of homeless camps at Lincoln Park near the Capitol and Civic Center.
Sky9 and a 9NEWS photographer saw crews at the park around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Denver police officers were on scene to assist with the execution of a public health order, according to DPD Public Information Officer Sonny Jackson.
Late Wednesday morning, protesters gathered near the site and confronted state troopers. Anderson was knocked down as he was caught in a scuffle between the two groups.
He was taken to the hospital and later tweeted an update on his condition. "My body hurts all over... I will be okay! STILL I RISE"
"The current state of Lincoln Park presents significant public and environmental health risks due to ongoing unsafe and unhealthy conditions," Ann Cecchine-Williams with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment told 9NEWS.
"As the stewards of public health in Denver, Denver Public Health & Environment is responsible for responding to community concerns about the serious issues present in the park, including issues that could impact the general public beyond those living outdoors."
Lisa Calderon, chief of staff for Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, was on site during the sweeps and said that mental health services were inadequate.
"An already traumatized population was only provided one mental health worker that I could see in my two-hours on scene who clearly seemed overwhelmed and under-equipped," Calderon said. "There could’ve been proper planning, coordination of service providers and notice to City Council offices to prevent the violence that unfolded over a number of hours today."
Calderon promised that CdeBaca's office, "as the epicenter of the homelessness crisis," would seek a full investigation.
Derek Woodbury, the spokesperson for Denver's Department of Housing Stability, said the city made efforts to make the situation less traumatic.
"We have had outreach staff from the Denver Street Outreach Collaborative deployed to the site earlier, to inform those encamped of available shelter options. This effort was assisted by the availability of chartered bus transportation both yesterday and today, offering transport to 24/7 sheltering options," he said.
Cecchine-Williams estimated that there were 75 to 100 people in the park Wednesday morning, a number greatly reduced from a week or so ago. She said the city had enlisted outreach workers and park rangers out last week to let them know that the temporary closure was imminent, and to provide them with options and resources.
"Future public health actions will be taken if conditions escalate to a point where the health and safety of the general public is at risk," Cecchine-Williams said. "It’s incredibly challenging to attempt to balance the needs of those living in the park with the health and safety of the general public. Fortunately, we have options and resources to assist and support those who are experiencing homelessness.
"We monitor and evaluate the encampment locations, and we only rely on restricting access to an area as a very last resort. The situation at Lincoln Park escalated to a public health emergency. The health and safety of all involved – those living in the park and the community – were clearly at risk because of the conditions present."
The area restriction is temporary, and the park will re-open when abatement and cleanup measures have restored the park to a safe and stable state, according to DDPHE.