Portland State Univ. students protest armed campus police

Students and political activists crashed the convocation of the new freshman class at Portland State University Monday to protest the school’s decision to start arming campus police officers.

Saying that the presence of armed officers would make students—especially African-American students—nervous, protesters supported by the Black Lives Matter movement called on PSU to reverse the policy and disarm the four officers who have received weapons so far, NBC affiliate KGW reports.

“We know that police around the country that are killing black people has implications here at the university, too,” Alyssa Pagan, one of the protest’s organizers, told the station.

“We feel we would be much safer without them [armed officers], especially with the Portland Police Bureau office main precinct being about five blocks away,” PSU student Mason Ashwill told KPTV. “So we don't see no real reason for having guns on campus and it makes me feel a lot less safe.”

Videos posted on Twitter under the heading “#DisarmPSU” show that protestors began the day by assembling in the Smith Memorial Student Union ballroom, where they disrupted the university’s convocation ceremony with chants of “Disarm PSU” and “Black Lives Matter” before moving outside the building, where a microphone was set up for students to express their grievances.

Carrying banners reading “Welcome to Police State University,” protestors then proceeded to take their demonstration to the streets of Portland, marching through a downtown park known as the South Park Blocks.

The rally was organized by the Portland State University Student Union (PSUSU), a group dedicated to advancing “the principles of horizontality, equality, and direct democracy,” but which, according to its website, “doesn’t presume to represent the student body.”

Claiming that school officials have refused to engage in a discussion with opponents of the policy, PSUSU member Olivia Pace told KATU that, “after all this time, we know that the only way to oppose it if we do want change is to be as loud as possible.”

PSU spokesman Scott Gallagher, however, told Campus Reform that the university will not respond to such tantrums by reversing the policy, which he said was developed with significant input from the school community and is consistent with the approaches of other public universities in Oregon.

“The decision was a culmination of two and a half years of engaging the campus and creating a task force made up of faculty, staff, and students to decide how best to improve safety,” he explained. “That task force recommended that the Board of Trustees approve the creation of a police force that would be armed.”

The policy received vindication just days before the protest, when Oregon Live reported that PSU police had arrested an 18-year-old non-student who was carrying a loaded handgun, apparently while stealing valuables from cars parked in a garage on campus.

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