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Sunday evening marks the fourth night of protesters camped on Auraria's Tivoli Quad

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) worries about encampments leading to an increase in antisemitism on college campuses; demonstrators on Auraria Campus say antisemitism is not welcome
While ADL is concerned, Auraria protesters say antisemitism is not welcome at solidarity encampment
Posted at 7:36 AM, Apr 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-29 13:49:24-04

DENVER — Sunday night marks the fourth night of a solidarity encampment for Gaza on Auraria's Tivoli Quad, where protesters have a list of demands.

Students are urging the University of Colorado (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.

Sunday evening marks fourth night of protesters camped on Auraria's Tivoli Quad

Khalid Hamu, a college senior, has slept at the encampment every night since Thursday.

“They like to say that protesters who fight for Palestine are Palestinian. So, I guess I do have that connection there," Hamu said about his connection to the cause. "Our demands have not been met. So, it's important to keep escalating until we see just change.”

Those with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have expressed their concerns about the encampments leading to an increase in antisemitism on college campuses.

“There are people out there that are passionate in their hate of war. They don't want war to go on. And they believe that there is a humanitarian crisis that we all want to see come to an end. Unfortunately, they've been aiming their angst, I think, at the wrong people. The perpetrator of this is Hamas, the terrorists. But all they seem to be arguing about is Israel on campuses today," ADL Director of the Mountain States Region Scott Levin said.

Levin said he believes in the right to protest but is concerned about language being used at the encampments.

“To sit there and allege against Jewish people, who have been the targets of the worst genocide in history with the Holocaust, that they're committing a genocide, it just feels terrible. And it's making Jews on campus, and Jews in the entire country, feel vulnerable at this time," Levin said. “To state that you're against the policies of Israel is not antisemitism, but to say that it has no right to exist, that is antisemitic."

Levin said antisemitism will always exist unless there is work done to combat it.

“The First Amendment gives you the right to speak, but you should also use your own right to listen," Levin said.

The demonstrators at Auraria on Sunday said hateful messages are not the point of the protest. Hamu said they aim to foster an environment where Jewish allies are welcomed.

“Antisemitism is a very real thing in America," Hamu said. “That's not something we tolerate. And I know it's something that has been used to try to delegitimize the calls for an end to the genocide, which is what we want... Students are demanding that they see a day where they see justice, that they see progressive change, so that they can see a better world.”

Auraria Campus released a statement Sunday, saying the encampment is a violation of campus policy, making it an unlawful assembly. The full statement is copied below.

Auraria Campus Statement for April 28, 2024 The Auraria Campus and its partner institutions strongly support the right to peacefully demonstrate as long as it's done so in accordance with the law and campus policies. Recent demonstrators have established an encampment, which violates campus policy prohibiting camping and has the potential to cause numerous safety, accessibility, and public health concerns. Recent demonstrators include our students, community members, and numerous external community members. Once the encampment was established, it became a violation of campus policy and, therefore, unlawful assembly. Leadership met with the protesters in the weeks leading up to the demonstration and during the demonstration, several times to discuss their demands and to educate them on the no-camping policy. After numerous attempts at communication and diplomacy and warnings to remove the tents, including sharing the policy in writing, the campers continued to refuse to comply. At that point, police asked campers to remove the tents and leave the encampment, and they arrested those not in compliance for trespassing. The encampment remains confined to the open space in front of the Tivoli Student Union, and the campus is open. Auraria institutions and law enforcement agencies continue to closely monitor the event, with the health and safety of our students, employees, and visitors as the top priority.
Devra Ashby, Auraria Higher Education Center

On Monday, CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks released a statement in which she explained that while she supported "the rights of our students and community members to free speech and to assemble peacefully," the encampments that were set up by Pro-Palestinian protesters were "a different matter," as they could cause public health and safety concerns.

Her full statement is below:

Dear Lynx Community,

As we prepare to start another busy spring semester week, I want to thank you for your support of teaching and learning as we wind down the 2024-25 academic year. Part of our role as an institution of higher education is to provide a safe place for students to learn and express their opinions. Sometimes that gets complicated, as we’ve seen across the country and on our own Tivoli Quad.

Friday, I shared that a group of individuals—Auraria Campus students, other campus community members, and individuals unaffiliated with our campus—initiated a demonstration and subsequent encampment on the quad that began Thursday and continues today.

Some of these protesters are students, and some are from outside groups and part of national movements. We all strongly support the rights of our students and community members to free speech and to assemble peacefully. In fact, this academic year we have seen more than 30 protests on campus, many of which were organized by the same student group leading the current demonstration. An encampment is a different matter. The creation of an encampment is in violation of Auraria Campus policy prohibiting camping—established two decades ago to ensure a safe campus environment and our ability to operate and fulfill our academic mission.

For background, CU Denver leaders and professional staff have been engaging and meeting with leaders from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and student government leadership for weeks and months and, most recently, during the current demonstration. We continue to meet with our student leadership on a regular basis as this issue progresses.

Last week, when protesters did not comply after exhaustive written and verbal requests to adhere to the no-camping policy, the event became an unlawful assembly. At that point, law enforcement stepped in Friday and asked campers to remove and leave the encampment. When that did not occur, approximately 40 arrests were made for trespassing and other charges. Later Friday, demonstrators reinstalled dozens of tents on the quad to continue the encampment. I am in close communication with other Auraria Campus leaders and officials from the city and state, and we are actively observing and assessing the quad activity.

Nothing is wrong with peaceful protest on a college campus. In fact, as a public urban research university, we are committed to principles of free speech and peaceful assembly. The Auraria Campus has policies to protect and enhance the free exchange of ideas on campus and other policies to enhance community safety. We must maintain that balance.

As these events unfold, some community members are asking: What’s wrong with an encampment? Why can’t we leave the campers be? The reality is that encampments can grow very quickly, cause public health and safety concerns. This can cause potentially problematic situations that compromise physical safety and impede our ability to create a welcoming and safe educational environment for our Lynx and campus guests. It’s true that some community members are supportive of the demonstration and encampment. It’s also true that I’ve heard from other students and parents who are distressed by this situation and want to finish out the semester without feeling anxious and unsafe.

Navigating this situation is extraordinarily complex and evolving. In the meantime, I want to assure you that the Auraria Campus is open with regular operations, and we will continue to prioritize the health, safety, and security of our campus community. This week will be a busy one, with students diligently preparing for finals and dozens of campus activities as is typical of this time of year. As we enter two weeks crucial to student success, we need to reinforce a respectful campus community for teaching and learning, on behalf of all our students.

We will continue in the days and weeks ahead to engage in respectful dialogue on issues on which we can mutually advance CU Denver values of inclusivity, empathy, and global engagement. The fact that members of our community may disagree on a range of topics is in fact a reflection of a healthy educational environment. We have worked hard to create a university at which individuals of all perspectives can have these dialogues in an atmosphere of civility and respect. Thank you for helping us preserve campus safety and prioritize our academic mission.

We will continue to provide periodic updates to the community, and you can also refer to our social media channels and AHEC’s site for more immediate updates. 

Michelle Marks

The chancellor's statement did not address any of the demands by Pro-Palestinian protesters to divest from Israel.

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