By Dillon Thomas

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– Response to a controversial display at the University of Colorado in Boulder caused campus police to monitor the debate that at times turned emotional on Thursday.

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An anti-abortion student organization at CU says someone vandalized its on-campus display, after a student who disagreed with the demonstration allegedly stole several crosses.

(credit: CBS)

On video the young woman is seen taking the crosses and putting them in her backpack. After she was confronted, the woman took out the crosses and tossed them on the ground.

The white crosses made up more than 1,000 that were placed on campus by the Students For Life organization. The group says each cross represents three abortions performed every day in the United States.

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Volunteers for the organization said the display was supposed to peacefully spark discussion about the often off-limits topic.

“We put them up to start a conversation with people. We didn’t put them up to cause anger,” said Emma Barham, a Students For Life volunteer.

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However, the group said they were met with disagreement and even hostility.

“This girl had walked up, and she just started taking some of the crosses without talking to us,” Barham said.

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Several students at CU vocally challenged those who represented the organization, something the group claimed they expected.

“The crosses here are trying to represent the idea that a life was murdered. You can say what you want about that,” one student said, in disagreement with the group. “But, if you make abortion illegal, people are still going to go get those abortions.”

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“It definitely touches people in different ways,” said Kayla Kuhn, president of the CU chapter of Students For Life.

However, the group told CBS4 they never expected their display would be vandalized.

The student that allegedly took the crosses spoke briefly with the group, before she left the display.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s really sad when people vandalize and steal property,” said Bethany Janzen, spokeswoman for Students For Life of America. “I think it’s really sad that people are interested in silencing other people’s free speech.”

Campus police were called to the scene which, despite some heated comments, ended peacefully.

The crosses belong to a nearby church, which is why Students For Life wants their property back.

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Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.