SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 26, 2024

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Auraria Campus

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 26, 2024, Auraria Campus Police, supported by the Denver Police Department, arrested 44 protesters, including students, campus community members, and external community members, at a pro-Palestine encampment on Auraria Campus.

Auraria Campus is affiliated with the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the University of Colorado, Denver. On April 25 and 26, demonstrators affiliated with the Colorado Palestine Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Students for a Democratic Society set up dozens of tents on Tivoli Quad, outside of the campus’s student center. The students demanded that the university divest from Israeli companies, end study abroad programs to Israel, and decline grants from companies that hold contracts with the United States Armed Forces.

According to Auraria Campus officials, university leaders met with protesters prior to and during the demonstrations to discuss their demands and warn them to remove tents in compliance with the university’s no camping policy. When the protesters refused, police used a megaphone to inform them that they would be arrested for trespassing if they failed to disperse. The protesters locked arms and formed a human chain around their tents; police responded by arresting 44 demonstrators.

Despite the arrests, the encampment remained, and the protest continued for several more weeks afterwards, with students chanting, participating in educational seminars, and making art. As of May 16, around 80 people had been arrested; Auraria Campus officials stated that those arrested included 16 enrolled students and three members of the faculty or staff.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of students and faculty members peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. While university authorities have an obligation to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of students and university personnel and should endeavor to prevent disruptions that inappropriately inhibit the functioning of or access to higher education, they must do so consistent with their responsibility to ensure academic freedom and free expression on campus. The punishment of nonviolent student and faculty expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.