On Friday evening, University of Colorado students organized a march calling on CU Boulder to take action following multiple allegations of women being drugged and sexually assaulted at fraternity houses in the last month.
“I was working with some people on Snapchat, and we decided to organize a group chat and organize this protest, to say that nobody should be suffering from sexual assault or anything like that,” said Michael Robinson, a CU student who helped to organize the march. “We just wanted to get together as a community and work together to put an end to this.”
“We want to show students and survivors that people are willing to fight for them,” Morgan Powell, a freshman who also helped organize the protest, told the Boulder Daily Camera.
The Boulder Police Department has confirmed that they are investigating two separate instances of sexual assault at the same off-campus fraternity house, but have not confirmed which house, according to Fox 31.
“The Department takes all such reports seriously and are unable to release further details at this time without compromising the integrity of the investigations,” the Police department said.
CU Boulder’s fraternities have a long history of sexual assault allegations, and many CU students are frustrated with the lack of consequences.
“I actually was rushing, believe it or not … but I heard that they did something really bad last year during the Date Dash, and as soon as I found that out, I wanted to get out,” Robinson said. “… I just don’t want to be hanging with people who behave that way. It’s horrible.”
Hundreds of protesters convened near Fiske Planetarium on CU Boulder’s campus at 5 p.m., before marching across campus towards the Pi Kappa Alpha house at 5:30 p.m.
As the protesters moved down Euclid Avenue, they were met by cheers of support from the residents of nearby houses.
Arriving at the Pi Kappa Alpha house, the atmosphere seemed more like that of a high-security facility than of a raucous college fraternity. Almost all the lights within had been shut off, and a chainlink fence stood around the yard. According to neighbors, Pi Kappa Alpha had erected the fence the previous night.
Additionally, members of the Boulder Police Department stood nearby to observe the protest. Traffic on the block was closed off by police cars.
Protesters circled around the fence en masse, with chants of “Say it once, say it again: no excuse for violent men” and “Shut PIKE down,” among others.
The protest continued even as the sun set, though many attendees left as time went on. As it became dark, many protesters raised their phones and turned their flashlights on.
Throughout the protest, numerous survivors of sexual assault were given a chance to share their stories with the crowd. At one point, many of those survivors came to the front of the fence to link their arms in a show of solidarity, and began a chant of “I said no.”
Additionally, as the evening went on, protesters were encouraged to throw their cardboard signs over the fence to “make [themselves] known,” as one member of the crowd put it.
Over the course of the protest, several attempts were made to breach the perimeter of the fence. At around 6 p.m., the fence was pulled open at one corner, leading a single police officer to push through the crowd towards the opening. Other protesters quickly returned the fence to its original position.
Later that evening, two protesters climbed over the fence to stand on top of an awning of the Pi Kappa Alpha house and address the crowd. Police soon reacted, telling the crowd that “property damage” would not be tolerated, though many protesters claimed that no property damage was taking place. After several tense minutes, both protesters climbed back down.
Shortly before 7 p.m., several protesters filed into the yard through a gap in the fence, before sitting down among their cardboard signs. Police once again demanded that the protesters leave the property, but this time, the students refused to back down.
The officers were met with jeering from the crowd. Many accused the police of not doing enough to bring rapists to justice.
“I should be able to go to the police, and I should be able to get help as a victim,” one protester called over a megaphone. “But instead, they’re helping the rapists.”
Several more minutes passed with the protesters refusing to leave the premises despite the demands of the police. The protesters remained peaceful, only sitting within the perimeter of the fence.
The police took no further action.
“Most of the marchers were peaceful and listened to our requests to stay out of the streets, not damage property, etc,” the Boulder Police Department said in a statement. “Towards the end of the march most of the organizers and marchers left and there were a few more agitated individuals left at the Fraternity. Some jumped the fence but most dispersed when our officers made contact. The march then ended with no arrests, no known criminal activity, and minimal disruption.”
“Our goal was to balance individual’s First Amendment rights with those of public safety,” the statement continued.
Around 7:30 p.m., the crowd fully dispersed after nearly two hours of protesting.
However, it was clear that for many CU students, the fight was far from over.
“[People] need to be aware that sexual assault is a serious issue, and if they see someone acting up at a party or what not, they need to pull them aside and see what’s going on,” Robinson said. “Because we don’t want anyone suffering from anything. Believe it or not, when a person gets assaulted … it’s with them forever.”
Pi Kappa Alpha did not respond to a request for comment. This article will be updated with any response given.
Additionally, the University of Colorado Boulder has issued a lengthy statement regarding the allegations, which is available here.