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Denver students bring the fight for demilitarization to campus CEO

By Keegan Estrella

Denver DSD protest militarization of campus police.

Denver, CO – On November 10, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) continued their campaign against the Auraria Campus Police Department’s (ACPD) ongoing participation in the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, otherwise referred to as the LESO Program. The program provides police departments with military grade weapons and supplies.

 Members of SDS Denver and their fellow students had a speakout at the center of campus, where they made their voices heard on the issue of campus militarization and the 1033 program.

A group of over a dozen students marched to Colleen Walker's office, who is the chief executive officer of the Auraria Higher Education Center and demanded that the Auraria Board of Directors (ABOD) listen to the students.

According to reporting by Zoe Schacht at Colorado Newsline, Colleen Walker has focused her energies on putting $10,000 of state funding and other non-state funding sources for the Auraria Higher Education Center to pay for her membership charges in Colorado Concerns, a conservative lobbying group. This group describes itself as “an exclusive alliance of top executives,” and they lobby the Colorado state legislature for property-tax cuts and the continuation of Denver camping bans. According to Schacht’s article, “Colorado Concern members who represent higher education institutions are Todd Saliman, president of the University of Colorado system; Tony Frank, chancellor of Colorado State University; Colleen Walker, CEO of the Auraria Higher Education Center; and Janine Davidson, president of Metropolitan State University.”

Two of the aforementioned executives, Janine Davidson and Colleen Walker, serve on ABOD and have ignored the community’s call for ACPD's withdrawal from the 1033 program, while focusing on conservative lobbying efforts in the state capitol.

Janine Davidson has a long career of service to the U.S. State Department. In the years 2009 to 2012 Davidson served as deputy assistant secretary of defense and oversaw the formulation of military war plans and global force posture policy. This culminated in her nomination to undersecretary of the United States Navy under Barack Obama in September of 2015. According to the Metropolitan State University of Denver publication RED, “Davidson is also the interim chair of the Department of Defense Policy Board, which she joined in December 2021.” Davidson is also a current member of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board with the likes of Thomas E. Donilon, chairman of the BlackRock Investment Institute.

This month’s march comes just two months after the Denver Police Department shot seven people just a couple blocks away from campus. Paul Nelson, a student at the Metropolitan State University, commented, “We live in a city where just last July the police committed a mass shooting on 20th and Larimer, firing recklessly into a crowd of people outside a bar.” The shooters have still not had any sort of consequence from the department. The students see this event as evidence that the police are not here to protect them.

Geral Mueller, a student at the University of Colorado Denver, spoke out against events the Auraria Campus Police Department has put on in the past that make students feel unsafe, “ACPD’s invitation of DPD and FBI onto campus shows that they do not care about the safety or concerns of oppressed students on campus.”

The students left their banners and signs at Colleen Walker’s office for her to come back to, as SDS’s campaign to demilitarize ACPD escalates.

#DenverCO #StudentsForADemocraticSocietySDS