Published: Apr 21, 2017, 7:04 pm • Updated: Apr 21, 2017, 9:32 pm
By Jon Murray and Danika Worthington, The Denver Post
Videos recorded by city security cameras in Civic Center show that cleanup activities following the large 4/20 celebration late Thursday night left plenty of trash strewn about the park.
The clips, provided to The Denver Post by police in response to a public records request, show that organizers, volunteers and a hired cleanup crew didn’t make much headway after the pro-marijuana event ended around 8 p.m. and vendors cleared out of the park in the hours afterward.
In a few locations, including the Greek Amphitheater and the center plaza of the park, videos time-stamped around 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. showed similar amounts of trash on the ground as videos taken of the same places on Friday morning, between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Rally organizer Miguel Lopez said Friday that some complications had arisen Thursday night, including people visiting the park and rummaging through trash bags while the sparse crews were trying to cleanup.
At another point, police confirmed, crews reported one of those people pulling a pocket knife on them about 10:45 p.m.
Lopez said cleanup crews were asked to leave by midnight Thursday, at Denver police’s request, after being told the park was closed to everyone.
A video still from a camera at the Greek atrium at Civic Center Park shows the scene at 10:08 p.m. April 20, 2017 (top) and 5:19 a.m. April 21, 2017 (bottom). (Provided by Denver Police Department)
That meant 14th Avenue still had plenty of trash on it, according to one surveillance video that showed city street-sweepers arriving about 12:30 a.m. They gathered the trash into piles on the asphalt for sweeping to ensure that the street could be reopened to traffic by morning rush hour.
Another complication: At a couple points overnight, the video clips showed people who might be homeless again rummaging through trash. That and the wind may have spread some piles.
The result of the slow cleanup was a flare-up in the long-simmering tension the 4/20 organizers have had with city officials for the annual event — even though this year’s permit gave them another full day, until 11:59 p.m. Friday, to finish clearing the park of trash.
When Denver woke Friday to piles and piles of refuse covering Civic Center, images quickly spread via social media and caught media outlets’ attention. The garbage was mostly concentrated around trash cans and appeared to have been pulled out of bags and boxes that had been emptied and tossed aside.
Nothing like waking up to seas of trash in the morning pic.twitter.com/Gqb0Fk52UA
— Danika Worthington (@Dani_Worth) April 21, 2017
City workers took photos of the trash piles in the morning as people walking to their offices picked their way through the mess, some stopping to stare and take their own pictures.
Organizers returned and finished cleaning the park by the early afternoon. Other passersby chipped in.
Late Friday afternoon, Denver police provided The Post with the video clips from HALO (High Activity Location Observation) surveillance cameras that are pointed at locations in Civic Center.
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). (Provided by Denver Police Department)
On Thursday, thousands of people descended on Civic Center for the 4/20 rally. The event included vendors, food trucks, the unofficial 4:20 p.m. marijuana smoke-in and a concert by rapper 2 Chainz.
Event organizers are required to submit trash and cleanup plans when seeking a permit, said spokeswoman Grace Lopez Ramirez of the Denver special events office.
Lopez, one of the organizers, said one crew member was threatened with a knife by one of the people sifting through trash, but opted not to press charges.
Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson confirmed that police officers responded to a call about the knife incident. He said the crew members declined to file a complaint, so police marked the incident as a disturbance and asked the suspect, who had a pocket knife, to leave the park.
Officers received a call that someone was shifting through a trash can around midnight but no officers were dispatched, said Christine Downs, a police spokeswoman.
Around 2 a.m., police received another call that someone was digging through a trash can near 14th and Bannock Street. Police confronted the individual and he stopped, Downs said.
Dawnarie Brook’s has been cleaning the park this morning. She was at the #denver420 rally & said the park wasn’t trashed when she left pic.twitter.com/TJkuYD6eVG
— Danika Worthington (@Dani_Worth) April 21, 2017
On Friday morning, Dawnarie Brook’s was out picking up trash. She had attended the 4/20 rally the night before, she said.
She left the Samaritan House Homeless Shelter Friday around 6:30 a.m. and was shocked when she reached Civic Center. She tended to at least one of the large garbage piles, collecting trash into boxes because the city trash can was lying on its side. A passerby heard her talking about the situation and stopped to help stand the heavy trash can back up.
Brook’s said she planned to keep cleaning until that pile was gone but would have to stop because her back was in too much pain. For her, it was especially upsetting to see all of the recyclables that had been strewn about and rained on.
“Colorado is a green state,” she said. “It’s a very healthy state.”
This story was first published on DenverPost.com