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Denver's Auraria Campus says it's dispersing and cleaning up pro-Palestinian encampment

Auraria Campus says it will disperse, clean up pro-Palestinian encampment
Auraria Campus says it will disperse, clean up pro-Palestinian encampment 00:34

Officials with the Auraria Campus, which has facilities for the University of Colorado at Denver, Metropolitan State University and Community College of Denver, say they've begun dispersing and cleaning up the Palestinian solidarity encampment at the Tivoli Quad on Saturday.

That encampment has been there since April 25 in support of similar encampments that have been constructed at Columbia University, UCLA and over 150 other campuses around the world.

At the encampments, student and faculty protestors and organizers have issued various demands, calling for their colleges and universities to disclose all their investments with Israel and divest from them.

Auraria Campus said around 12:45 p.m. on Saturday that the encampment has been "abandoned," and that it's already begun dispersing what remains at the encampment.

"Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of all students, staff, faculty, and community members, the Auraria Campus remains on a modified building access restricted to critical personnel and operations," campus spokeswoman Devra Ashby said in a statement.

That statement also called the encampment an "unauthorized occupation that has increasingly escalated into dangerous activities, taken significant time, resources, and dialogue with student protesters to resolve, and has pulled us away from our academic mission and goals."

Organizers have called it an act of civil disobedience and First Amendment-protected activity.

In a joint statement on Saturday from Denver Students for a Democratic Society and the Colorado Palestine Coalition, those organizers say the encampment achieved its goal of getting Metropolitan State University to disclose its investments with and from Israel and though the tents have come down, they won't stop organizing to get each university to divest.

The encampment "has achieved significant milestones that have made clear the power of student organizing; have shown the strength of community solidarity, and have strengthened our movements for liberation," the statement says, in part. "Our encampment stands as a testament to the strength and determination of students and community members united in the struggle for Palestinian liberation and broader movements for justice and liberation."

Photos shared by campus officials Saturday show the quad empty when, prior to the weekend, dozens of tents stood and activists chanted, gave speeches, did yoga and more.

Some areas of the quad show yellow patches of grass where tents sat for weeks.

A Saturday, May 18, 2024 photo shows Tivoli Quad at Auraria Campus cleared of tents and protesters at the site of an encampment that stood since April 25. Courtesy / Auraria Campus

The encampment represented a source of tension between pro-Palestinian students, faculty and community members on the one hand, and campus officials, campus police, pro-Israel Jewish students and organizations and other members of the community on the other.

Some of those students, the executive director of Hillel Colorado and other members of Colorado's Jewish community denounced the encampment as anti-semitic, the left-wing, anti-zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace had a strong presence there, with a number of Jewish members chanting or showing phrases on shirts and posters like "Jews for ceasefire" and "not in our name."

On April 26, the day after the encampment rose, Auraria Police arrested approximately 40 protesters in the quad, and earlier this month, 10 protesters were issued summons for refusing to leave one building on the campus.

Friday, the protesters were seen leaving the quad and marching in the streets, some holding their tents, still fully constructed, chanting "Free, free Palestine" and "we want justice, you say 'how?' CU Denver divest now!"

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators carry signs, flags and tents as they leave the site of an encampment at Auraria Campus in Denver on Friday, May 17, 2024. CBS

Both MSU and CU Denver have partnerships with Lockheed Martin, one of the largest defense contractors in the world.

The Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building at MSU on Auraria Campus was built with help from the company and the school serves as a pipeline for employment to York Space Systems, Lockheed Martin, Booze Allen Hamilton, Ball Aerospace and Raytheon, the school says on its website.

Colorado is home to the second-highest number of aerospace industry employees of any state in the country and Lockheed Martin is the state's second-largest employer, second only to Denver International Airport.

Crews put up fences around the Tivoli Quad, the former site of a pro-Palestinian encampment, at Auraria Campus in Denver on Saturday, May 18, 2024. CBS

"Students will continue to fan the flames of the Popular Palestinian Liberation struggle on this front and on campuses around the world," the protest organizers' statement concluded. "We will continue to organize for divestment and for the end to the occupation; for a Free Palestine; From the River to the Sea!"

Auraria Campus officials say the Tivoli Quad and all other green spaces on the Auraria Campus will be closed until further notice for "property repairs and other work that needs to be done to return to normal operations."

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