Denver police refuse to clear student encampment in Auraria

By Viviana Weinstein
May 9, 2024


May 4. According to a report by the Denver Post, Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas refused requests by the Auraria campus to clear the tent encampment. This was the second refusal.

Encampment at Auraria campus of Denver universities, April 28. Credit: Viviana Weinstein

On April 26, police had arrested 45 students for trespassing when they refused to clear the encampment on the Auraria campus, which students set up to protest the Israeli genocidal acts against the Palestinians in Gaza.

The students demanded that the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Community College of Denver, which comprise the Auraria Campus, divest from corporations that invest in Israel and in U.S. weapons industries; end exchange studies with Israel; disclose their financial investments; and meet with students to implement the demands.

Chief Ron Thomas refused to dismantle the demonstration, which he said was very peaceful, for a second time. He said “there is no legal way” for officers to dismantle the demonstration “unless they do something that creates an unlawful assembly. We are absolutely not going to go in and sweep out this peaceful protest just because they are occupying a space on your campus that you would like to use for something else right now and because of your fears that maybe this could grow to the point where it interferes with other campus activities.”

In 2020, following police assaults on demonstrations protesting the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the city was ordered to pay millions of dollars to demonstrators after a decision was made that the assault amounted to an unconstitutional response and excessive use of force.

Thomas noted that since these payouts were made, there have been changes in the Denver police’s approach to crowd control. (Denver Post, May 4). His statement, however, provides no guarantee that the university administration or the police will find no pretext for police intervention.