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Auraria Campus leadership addresses health, safety concerns as encampment grows


DENVER — As the pro-Palestinian encampment on the Auraria Campus continues to grow, so do college leaders’ concerns over health and safety.

During a news conference Thursday, campus leaders said they’ve received complaints from students and parents regarding the encampment and alleged the majority of protesters are not campus students.

“On Tuesday, May 7, two additional attempted occupations occurred by encampment protesters,” said Devra Ashby, director of marketing and communications for the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC). “One of which resulted in vandalism, additional hostile behavior, banging on windows and entryways.”

On Tuesday, participants left their encampment at Tivoli Quad and briefly occupied the first two floors of the Tivoli Student Union building as Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE), was meeting with leaders of the pro-Palestinian student protest group just before noon Tuesday.

Fourteen protesters were arrested Tuesday by the Auraria Campus Police Department for trespass and failure to obtain lawful orders. Ashby said they were non-custodial arrests, meaning the protesters were cited and released.

“So based on the incidents that resulted in arrests, actively enrolled student participation has decreased from 50% on April 26th to 35% on May 7th,” said Ashby during Thursday’s press conference. “This continues to highlight Auraria Campus leadership’s concerns of external influences on the emotionally charged environment that the encampment has created on our campus.”

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Amid the news conference, the encampment remained unmoved. Protesters continued to chant, eat, sing, study, and discuss the Israel-Hamas war.

“This is a popular issue,” said Khalid Hamu, a UC Denver student and one of several student leaders in the protest. “This is a just issue, and our camp is reflecting that.”

The encampment features a makeshift kitchen, library, and cleared pathway to help people with wheelchairs navigate the area. There are also several fliers with camp rules taped to the tents, which include no drugs and no tolerance for abuse. There are also portable restrooms at the encampment.

However, campus leaders say feces and other sanitary concerns have been discovered since the encampment was erected.

“Parents of students and staff have submitted numerous complaints to campus administrators with pictures of feces around their cars that have been parked near the quad,” said Ashby.

Humu said encampment organizers have brought in portable restrooms because the campus made it harder for participants to enter buildings, and any waste spilled was a result of tampering.

“They’ve done a major crackdown on things, like our ability to use the bathroom, as well as things like locking doors,” said Hamu. “Certain buildings will, you know, even if you’re a student, they have to have a specific school ID in order to enter it.”

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Ashby said the campus is also concerned about the protesters facing danger.

“Last night, there was an incident that we’re learning through posts on the Student Democratic Society posts on Instagram, that there was a stranger who came through, or several strangers who came through, with knives,” said Ashby. “[Auraria Campus Police Department] has been responsive to help keep the peace on the quad.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters took their demonstrations outside of the Tivoli Quad encampment Thursday night. According to Ashby, protesters blocked an intersection on Colfax Avenue for nearly two hours. The intersection was clear as of 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

Auraria Campus police also found roughly 10 tents abandoned at the Golda Meir House and Education Center, Ashby said in an update Thursday night.

“This is additional information demonstrating the escalating tensions of this encampment situation. The Auraria Campus Police Department is working in collaboration with the Denver Police Department to de-escalate the situation. This is an ongoing and developing series of events, and we will provide information as we can,” said Ashby.

Auraria Campus leadership addresses health, safety concerns as encampment grows


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