Denver Mayor Hancock Orders Permit Review over Trash and Security Concerns at 4/20 Event

Dawnarie Brooks picks up trash in Civic Center Park on April 21, 2017, the morning after the 4/20 marijuana celebration event was held in Denver. “This is where I live — I can’t leave it like this,” said Brooks, a homeless women living in Denver.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday ordered a city review into rampant fence-hopping, public pot-smoking and slow trash cleanup that left Civic Center in a “disrespectful state” during and after last week’s 4/20 celebration.

“Our parks and public spaces are held in the public trust. … When you leave one of our parks trashed, you violate that trust,” Hancock said in the park just before noon, with several members of his administration flanking him.

The mayor, the parks director, the special events office’s leader and the police chief said the focus on Thursday’s annual daylong 4/20 event, which attracted tens of thousands of people, was about more than the piles of trash still left behind Friday morning. In coming weeks, city officials said, they will examine not only trash management but also public safety protocols and security staffing that, taken together, they saw as more of a problem than in previous years.

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Hancock said the review by his staff would look at policies, procedures and event requirements for lessons for all big events in parks, not just 4/20.

But the review could result in penalties or affect that event’s future.

Miguel Lopez, the 4/20 rally’s longtime organizer, was not immediately available for comment Monday.

Police Chief Robert White suggested security was inadequate, given the frequency of event-goers rushing the perimeter fence late in the afternoon — as the unsanctioned 4:20 p.m. smoke-out neared — to avoid long security-screening lines at the entry points.

A video still from a camera at the Greek amphitheater at Civic Center Park shows the scene at 9 p.m. April 20, 2017 (top) and 6:41 a.m. April 21, 2017 (bottom).

Though no big incidents occurred inside the gates, White said, the lax security likely allowed in plenty of contraband. Officers cited or arrested 48 event-goers, most of them for public marijuana consumption — a common occurrence in past events.

Outside the 4/20 event, two people were arrested after gunfire was reported near 15th Street and Cleveland Place in the early evening. Nobody was injured in that incident.

So, it’s not just the trash in Civic Center: @MayorHancock‘s review of 4/20 rally will look at security (crashing fences), policies violated

Organizers’ permit for Civic Center allowed for cleanup all day Friday, but the trash still strewn across the grounds at dawn, as office workers strolled to their jobs, drew quick public recriminations.

Lopez said Friday that volunteers and a hired cleanup crew weren’t allowed by police to stay in the park after midnight Thursday and had to return to finish clearing out trash in the morning. The park was clean of trash by early afternoon.

Lopez long has protested the scrutiny his event faces perennially.

But city officials said 4/20 wasn’t being targeted unfairly.

They said the core trash problem was that Lopez’s permit conditions included keeping up with garbage removal throughout the event, rather than leaving much of it for the end.

“We have other very large events here where we have no problems — that are much larger, that have many more people, that generate far more trash, if you will,” said Allegra “Happy” Haynes, executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation. “And we’ve never experienced that issue.”

Hancock said the “deep dive” permit review could have a bearing on other events beyond 4/20.

“These types of issues could arise in any event — I want to make that very clear,” he said. “But we don’t want to see them happen again.”

Still, Hancock said the event’s celebration of marijuana, with plenty of public consumption occurring, brings special challenges, given renewed federal scrutiny of legalization.

“We always want to be mindful of the city not promoting lawlessness,” Hancock said. “And when I look out that office (window) at the 4/20 event any year — and I see the plume — that bothers me.”

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