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4 cited in protest of new Colorado Springs law

April 11, 2016 Updated: April 11, 2016 at 12:57 pm
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Trygue Bundgaard is arrested Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Acacia Park during a protest against the Pedestrian Access Act that went onto affect in the morning. Four protester were willingly arrested for sitting on the sidewalk at the entrance to the park. About 150 protesters attended the event organized by the Coalition for Compassion and Action. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Four protesters were cited and issued summonses for sitting on a downtown sidewalk Saturday, the first day of enforcement for Colorado Springs' new Pedestrian Access Act.

A festival atmosphere prevailed at Acacia Park, as about 150 protesters gathered with their children, dogs and dozens of colorful signs. Every few minutes, drivers passing on Tejon Street would honk, wave and cheer in approval.

The Coalition for Compassion and Action organized the event, coordinating with police so the four voluntary arrestees would be cited under the new sit-lie law rather than an obstruction ordinance.

Officers were promised a peaceful protest, and that's what they got.

Arrested and ordered to appear May 3 in Municipal Court on the misdemeanor citations were coalition co-founders Trygve Bundgaard and Alan Pitts and members Mark Chamberlain and Cayla Renea Tierce, all of Colorado Springs.

Police warned each of them first, and each refused to budge, ensuring their citations. If convicted, they could be fined up to $500 each. Or a judge could sentence them to community service.

The group had not decided how it will respond in court, Pitts said.

The Pedestrian Access Act bans sitting, lying, kneeling or reclining on streets or sidewalks in the downtown and Old Colorado City business districts during business hours.

"Of course, police officers had to kneel on the sidewalk to tell us it's illegal to kneel here," Chamberlain said.

Larisa Janzen, who brought 7-week-old son Xander to the protest, said she and her husband were homeless six years ago but now own a house in Colorado Springs and run a business.

"The 2008 crisis affected a lot of people," Janzen said. "We lived in San Isabel Forest for a year. It sucked."

The protest "is obviously very important to me. The law is targeting homeless people in direct violation of the Constitution. It's my direct responsibility as a human being to respond."

Also present was City Councilman Bill Murray, who voted for the ordinance but responded to a crowd that encircled and questioned him after the citations were issued.

Murray told The Gazette he does not regret having supported the law.

"My intentions were honorable," he said, adding that a man sprawled across the sidewalk in a sleeping bag at 7-Eleven earlier Saturday had blocked his passage but moved when asked to do so.

Protesters later linked arms and marched three abreast along the sidewalk on Tejon Street, beside a line of seated people, to demonstrate that city walkways are wide enough to accommodate people sitting and walking.

"Where's the obstruction? I can't find it," they chanted.

Marcus Hyde said he came from Denver to support the protest, after spending a few years homeless as a teenager.

"The law will create revenue for jails, will further perpetuate poverty and will increase reliance on Band-Aid solutions like shelters instead of resolving the lack of housing and low wages," Hyde said. "But it won't even accomplish the goal of eliminating visible homelessness. The problem just gets compounded."

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