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Dozens of students at Denver’s Auraria campus arrested as Pro-Palestinian protests continue for a second day

Approximately 100 students in Denver joined hundreds of others across college campuses in the U.S. Thursday asking universities to divest from Israel
Posted: 1:35 PM, Apr 26, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-27 01:54:57-04
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DENVER — Dozens of students at Denver's Auraria campus were arrested by police in riot gear Friday as protests against the Israel-Hamas war continued for a second day on the lawn of the college campus.

Auraria officials alerted students on and off campus to avoid Tivoli Quad "due to civil unrest" at around 12:30 p.m. before sending a second alert about 45 minutes later, telling everyone that all inbound traffic into the campus had been shut down.

By then, law enforcement in riot gear had responded to the encampment that had formed on the Tivoli Quad lawn a day earlier, as seen by AirTracker7.

Officers – dressed in full protective gear and armed with batons – were seen blocking students who were chanting "Long live Palestine!" from entering their tents. Police were later seen taking some of the students who were resisting arrest into one of at least two Denver Sheriff Department buses that had been parked nearby.

"You must disperse. Failure to disperse will subject each of you to arrest and prosecution," officers in riot gear could be heard telling protesters in a video posted by the Colorado Palestine Coalition on Instagram before the arrests began. "If you remain, reasonable and necessary force will be used to remove you."

More than 30 Pro-Palestine student protestors detained at Denver’s Auraria campus

"I don't see a riot here, why are you in riot gear?" protesters could be heard chanting as police surrounded them before arrests were made, a video from the coalition uploaded to Instagram also showed.

Later Friday evening, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston made a visit to the campus. According to his office, Johnston "informed [protestors] of their right to peacefully protest and asked them to respect campus rules and remove their tents which could be kept in provided storage."

The protest at the Auraria campus, which houses the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and Community College of Denver, started Thursday after dozens of student set up camp on the Tivoli Quad lawn. Protesters said they didn't plan on leaving anytime soon until the universities took a public stance in the Israel-Hamas war.

The war started on Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing 1,139 people. Following the attack, the Israeli government vowed to destroy Hamas and has since killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, around two-thirds of them children and women, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

In Denver, students are urging CU to divest from corporations that operate in Israel, reject grants and funding from organizations that have military ties with Israel, as well as shut down study abroad programs in the Middle Eastern country. They're also asking that CU Denver fully disclose its financial investments and are demanding Chancellor Michelle Marks meet with student organizers and discuss a plan to implement the aforementioned demands.

“It's not a hard ask. It's the humane and right thing to do," Geral Mueller, an SDS representative, told Denver7 Thursday.

A spokesperson for the Auraria Higher Education (AHEC) said the encampment violates their policy. Although students are allowed to peacefully protest, setting up tents is a violation, the spokesperson said.

The student protest in Denver – one of several across the country after last week’s arrest of more than 100 demonstrators at Columbia University in New York – was organized by the Colorado Palestine Coalition (CPC) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Ten other college campuses across the nation have since joined the protests, calling for universities to separate themselves from any companies that are advancing Israel’s military efforts in Gaza — and in some cases from Israel itself.

In California, 90 students from the University of Southern California were arrested Wednesday on charges of trespassing during a protest at the university. The university canceled its main stage graduation ceremony set for May 10 after already canceling a commencement speech by the school’s pro-Palestinian valedictorian, citing safety concerns. At California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, university officials closed the campus through this weekend, saying instruction would continue to be remote, after protesters at the university in northern California used furniture, tents, chains and zip ties to block entrances to an academic and administrative building on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

At Ohio State University, police clashed with protesters in Columbus Thursday evening and arrested 36 people. Of those, 16 were students and the remaining 20 were not affiliated with the university, a university spokesperson said.

In Washington, D.C., 50 students at George Washington University set up tent encampments on the school's University Yard on Thursday. It's unclear if any protesters had been arrested.

Also in New York, 133 protesters had been taken into custody following protests at New York University. And at the Fashion Institute of Technology, part of the public State University of New York system, a few dozen protesters had set up tents and occupied a building on campus.

At Emory University in Atlanta, school officials said 20 people had been arrested. Video that was widely circulated on social media showed two women who identified themselves as professors being detained, with one of them slammed to the ground by one officer as a second officer then pushes her chest and face onto a concrete sidewalk, according to the AP.

At Northwestern, the school changed its student code of conduct to bar tents on the Chicago campus as student activists set up an encampment.

In Indiana, 34 people were arrested by police with shields and batons after an encampment was set up at Indiana University in Bloomington. Videos posted to social media appear to show the protest continuing after law enforcement stopped making arrests. At least one officer sustained "minor injuries," the AP reported.

And at the University of Pennsylvania, a small but growing protest encampment remained in place by early Friday. The protest was being closely monitored by university officials.

Councilwoman Sarah Parady told Denver7 more than 30 people had been arrested at the Auraria protest, with those in custody taken to Denver City Jail.

"I've never seen anything more unjust in my life," Parady told Denver7.

Over 100 people protested in Denver Friday, Auraria campus officials said in a statement after arrests had been made late Friday afternoon.

Our campus institutions recognize and respect the right to peacefully demonstrate, and our priority is the safety of our students, employees, and visitors. Auraria Campus policies prohibit camping due to health, safety, and security concerns. 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.

A spokesperson for Auraria said administrators spoke with numerous protesters and told them they were in violation of the policy, adding that Dr. Angie Paccione, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, also visited campus and met with student protesters, who were asked multiple times to remove the encampment.

Approximately 40 people were arrested Friday by Auraria Higher Education Center Police and the Denver Police Department, the spokesperson said. All of them are facing trespassing charges.

"Our top priority remains the safety of all students, staff, faculty, and community members. Our role is to educate and encourage learning through thoughtful and respectful dialogue," the Auraria campus spokesperson said in a statement. "In that spirit, we will continue to support civic engagement and peaceable assembly, while working to ensure a safe and healthy campus environment for all of our students, employees, and visitors."

In a statement, a Denver Police Department spokesperson said the department served "in a supporting role" in the arrests made by the Auraria Campus Police Department.

Though the police response to the Tivoli Quad lawn at the Auraria campus had ended by about 3 p.m., several students could be seen setting tents back up to continue the protest.

Denver7's Sam Peña and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Police detain Denver students protesting Israel-Gaza war on Auraria Campus

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