Denver law enforcement arrest antiwar protesters on Auraria Campus

Officers surrounded the camp on the Tivoli Quad and began attempting to remove the two dozen or so people who refused to clear out. 
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Auraria Police arrest protesters advocating for the end of Israel’s offensive in Gaza after they occupied the Tivoli Quad and refused to leave. April 26, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Updated at 4:05 p.m. on Friday, April 26, 2024

Denver law enforcement removed and arrested protesters Friday afternoon on the Auraria Campus.

Students had set up camp on the Tivoli Quad on Thursday, joining the movement of demonstrators on college campuses across the country protesting the war in Gaza.

At about noon, Denver and Auraria Campus Police officers and Denver sheriff's deputies parked about a dozen police vehicles at the scene and surrounded the camp. Some officers then began attempting to remove the two dozen or so people who refused to clear out of the camp.

As students started to get arrested, other protesters surrounded the ring of police officers in an attempt to keep people away from those lined up for arrest. Some protesters tried to push police officers out of the Tivoli Quad, and surrounded a cop car to try and stop it from leaving.

Rally-goers shouted "Free Palestine" in the background.

Sean Burns, a student government leader with the University of Colorado Denver, said he was "incredibly disappointed" by the response from all three institutions and police.

"This has been nothing but a peaceful protest," he said. "I really think it's a shame. It's only escalated the situation and I hope to see everything be resolved peacefully."

Denver City Council member Sarah Parady was at the protest in support of the students organizing. She said students removed the tents so it was unclear to her why some were arrested.

"There is a line of students sitting in the grass. No one has done anything violent, disruptive, damaging," she said. "They are being arrested for trespassing on their own campus, nothing more, nothing less, on the orders of the Auraria Higher Education Campus, and I think that's very unfortunate."

Yelling protesters seen in the reflection of a Denver Police officer assisting in the arrests of protesters advocating for the end of Israel's offensive in Gaza, by occupying the Auraria Campus' Tivoli Quad. April 26, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

What had officials Auraria Campus said about the protesters?

A statement issued by the Auraria Higher Education Center earlier in the day on Friday read:

"We fully support the right of students to assemble peacefully. Still, it's essential to note that Auraria Campus policy prohibits camping on the premises because of health, safety, and security considerations."

Denver Police officers rush past protesters, many who were actively blocking their exit, after they arrested people advocating for the end of Israel's offensive in Gaza by erecting a campsite in the Tivoli Quad and refused to leave. April 26, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The Auraria Campus was committed to listening and collaborating with students and protecting their right to free speech, the statement continued. However, campus policy prohibited camping on the premises because of health, safety, and security considerations.

"While those who gathered at the onset of Thursday’s protest did so peacefully, some participants established an encampment as the demonstration progressed, which violates those policies," another statement from officials at the Auraria Campus said. "Campus administrators spoke with numerous protestors and advised them of our policy, including providing written copies."

The statement also said about 40 people were arrested and face trespassing charges.

While pro-Palestinian organizers have been protesting the war for months, a newer wave of protests has been sweeping the U.S. after college administrators at Columbia University suspended students and police made arrests at an encampment at the university’s campus in New York City last week.

Since then, police have arrested student protesters across the country, with some campuses switching to remote classes through the end of the semester over security concerns.

What did the student organizers on Auraria Campus demand?

The student organizers at the Auraria Campus had sent a list of demands on Thursday which included: a statement from the University of Colorado “condemning the genocidal actions of Israel,” a meeting with CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks, divestment from any corporations operating in Israel, transparency around investments, and an end to University of Colorado study abroad programs in Israel. 

The organizers also want CU’s administration to sever ties with and refuse grants from companies that contract with the U.S. military. That could affect programs like CU’s aerospace engineering department, which works with companies like Lockheed Martin.

Student leaders said Thursday: “We will not be leaving until our demands are met.”

According to federal data, the University of Colorado Denver has accepted nearly $3 million in contracts with Israel since 2016.

Response from some local Jewish organizations

In response to the demonstration, a coalition of organizations dedicated to fighting antisemitism in Colorado called upon university leadership Friday to “take bold action” before violence ensues.

“This is not about peaceful protest or the First Amendment, this is about keeping Jewish students safe while they pursue higher education,” said Matt Most, the Acting Director of Colorado Jewish Community Relations Council.

“When Jewish students fear leaving their dorms, are locked in classrooms, or worse, told to leave campus entirely because their community cannot protect them, antisemitism is clearly present and we need university leaders who will be brave and lead.”

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify which agencies different officers belonged to.

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