Denver, CO – On March 15, students at Auraria Campus in Denver gathered to voice support for a resolution that would prohibit their campus police from obtaining military weapons from the Pentagon’s 1033 Program. The resolution comes after a yearlong fight led by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to pressure administration to agree to the ban.
The Pentagon 1033 Program is a way for police departments to acquire military equipment from the Pentagon at low prices. While Auraria Campus Police Department (ACPD) claims they only use the program to acquire items such as office supplies, they notably did at one time own multiple M16 rifles acquired through the program. While these rifles were eventually sent back, students feel that the easy access to these weapons is part of a larger attempt to militarize police departments and college campuses across the country.
“ACPD has said in informal exchange with SDS that they will not buy any more military equipment from the 1033 Program, but we cannot take them at their word,” says SDS member Kyle Burroughs, “It should be easy to make this formal if this is truly the attitude of ACPD and the Auraria Board of Directors.”
Another SDS member, Keegan Estrella, noted over the megaphone that ACPD’s claim is in line with the demands of SDS, challenging ACPD to “come endorse our resolution.” He continued, “If you say that you don’t want those weapons and that you aren’t going to use those weapons, then come endorse our resolution!”
Meanwhile, the Auraria Board of Directors has been dodging a vote on the resolution for at least two months, which, according to SDS member Sol Swain, is “a slap in the face to student organizers within SDS.” Swain continued “We’re somewhat baffled as to why such a simple resolution is being met with such hesitancy. Military weapons are not necessary on a college campus, but the Auraria Board of Directors apparently does not see eye to eye with us on this. I would like to see more money going towards my education, not military weapons.”
Most recently, Dr. Janine Davidson, president of Metropolitan State University (one of the three schools on Auraria Campus) proposed edits to the resolution that would rob the proposal of any material conditions blocking ACPD from attaining military weapons. The suggested edits say that ACPD could get weapons so long as there is “notification and consultation with [Auraria Board of Directors] and community.” This edit essentially gives the directors more power over the police than they had in the first place, while stripping the actual campus community already fighting against the acquisition of these weapons of any power whatsoever.
“The community is speaking out against the weapons right now. If Dr. Davidson truly wanted the community’s input on whether or not ACPD should have access to them, she would stop ignoring what the community is actually saying right now,” says Burroughs.
That the proposed edit came from Dr. Davidson, who is a former undersecretary of the Navy and chair of the Department of Defense Policy Board is not surprising. SDS member Paul Nelson asserts, “Dr. Davidson has an extensive military background and plenty of experience with killing machines. I think she’s confusing this workplace with her old one.”
The vote on the resolution is set to happen on March 29, meaning by the end of the month students will see whether the Auraria Board of Directors has listened to its campus community or decided to side with the police militarization camp.