‘Disarm PSU’ angry about being compared to Republicans
The shooting deaths of nine people at a gun-free Oregon college last week have done nothing to slow the march of an anti-gun movement a few hours up the I-5 corridor.
Progressive student activists who crashed the freshmen convocation at Portland State University last month, before the Umpqua Community College shooting, have doubled down in their opposition to a new PSU policy that arms some of its campus police.
In an announcement Friday, the school said four officers are currently armed and 12 will be at the end of the three-year implementation period.
“Portland Police will respond to campus emergencies, but the bureau has only one officer assigned to PSU’s part of town and the response time can be as long as 20 minutes,” the announcement said. “The goal of the campus police force is to respond to emergencies – an active shooter, for example — in less than a minute.”
The PSU Student Union is encouraging students to show up en masse to the office hours of President Wim Wiewel next week, as well as to a weekly “Coffee with the Chief” meeting with PSU’s campus public safety chief.
The activists brought the Sept. 21 freshmen convocation to a standstill in order to register their opposition to the deputization of campus security, which started in June – a year and a half after a university task force recommended it.
Alyssa Pagan, the primary organizer of the protest, performed a self-described “mic check” in the middle of Wievel’s address to incoming students as her fellow activists held banners that read “#DisarmPSU” and “Welcome to Police State University.”
Pagan jumped up and down in anger as she walked around the auditorium backed by a chorus of protesters, as shown on video she posted on her own Facebook page.
#DisarmPSUMic check shutting down university president Wim Wiewel’s self-congratulatory convocation speech to incoming freshman.
Posted by Alyssa Pagan on Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Refusing calls to continue their protest outside the building, Pagan blamed the heckler’s veto on the administration: “This is what happens when you don’t listen to the very people you are trying to protect.”
Pagan shouted about the recent shooting of an unarmed man by a University of Cincinnati police officer, concluding that “Black Lives Matter.” The assembled protesters finished with a chant of the group’s chosen moniker “disarm PSU.”
PSU Student Union activists also staged a protest outside the building where the convocation was to take place later that day.
Demonstrators shouted slogans such as “we want real diversity, not another police state university” along with more chants of “black lives matter” and “disarm PSU.”
In an interview with local NBC affiliate KGW preceding her interruption of Wievel’s convocation speech, Pagan continued the racial theme of the opposition: “We know police around the country that are killing black people has implications here at our university too.”
Among the videos the Student Union posted to its Facebook page featuring student thoughts on armed guards, one activist claims that PSU just wants to oppress its increasingly diverse student body.
“The arming and deputizing of campus security has nothing to do with campus security,” said Scout Zabel in the video. “What this actually has to do with is oppression, and power, and profit. It is no coincidence that campus security is getting armed at the same time that we have the most diverse freshmen class.”
Scout ZabelPSUSU member Scout Zabel expressing their thoughts after the rally today.
Posted by PSUSU – the Portland State University Student Union on Monday, September 21, 2015
Armed police are ‘only relevant and effective for white cis gendered people’
Another activist, Olivia Pace, posted on Facebook that #DisarmPSU had planned the heckling “completely in secret” over two months and managed to convince “around 50” of the freshmen to walk out with them in solidarity.
Pace claimed that after they left the convocation, the “capitalist” Wiewel compared the activists to “the Republican party in an echo chamber,” despite the fact that #DisarmPSU is composed of “marginalized groups” and not “a bunch of white, rich, cis het men trying to infringe on the rights of others.”
— Mike Bivins (@itsmikebivins) October 2, 2015
The murder of nine people at Umpqua Community College, where guns are not allowed even by campus security, has not given pause to the PSU movement.
Challenged by a critic on Facebook Thursday, Student Union members said they weren’t convinced. One responded: “The idea that placing police in a given area is a viable measure to achieve safety (whatever you believe that is) is only relevant and effective for white cis gendered people.”
Faculty more upset than students
The activists have framed their opposition in racial terms going back a year.
At a public safety forum last fall on the task-force recommendations, black activist Tony Funchess said the “community of color” faced unique threats from armed campus guards.
He said he was offended that PSU assigned a black man, Director of Conduct and Community Standards Dominic Thomas, to defend the administration’s “politicking” at the forum.
“Guns do jump out of holsters and kill people that look me and look like my children,” said Funchess, who ran for student body president this spring but sparked a student backlash when his sexual-assault convictions were exposed.
FYI- all the guns were legal so what say you now?
— Tony Funchess (@TonyFunchess) October 2, 2015
The PSU Student Union also staged a “die in“ at the board of trustees’ December meeting before the proposal came up for a vote.
The proposal was much more controversial with faculty than with students, however.
Polling by the student government found students equally divided among favoring armed guards, opposing them and undecided. Internal polling by the campus American Association of University Professors affiliate, as well as an adjunct-faculty association, found about two-thirds of each opposed to armed guards.
The campus chapter of the College Republicans also opposed the university plan, with President Jeremiah Scott telling The College Fix on Friday that officers didn’t need weapons to keep the students safe.
The board nonetheless approved the arming proposal 9-3 in June, noting that the other major public universities in the state, including Oregon Health & Sciences University on the other side of downtown, all have “armed officers on campus.”
The Oregonian editorial board also supported the policy, noting the high percentage of prior arrest records of those who are arrested on campus and the “cumbersome” process to report crime to the local Portland Police Bureau near PSU.
IMAGES: Rawpixel/Shutterstock, KGW screenshot