Disarm PSU to the Board of Trustees, “You All Look Ridiculous”
On Sept.13 a Multnomah Grand Jury decided against indicting the two officers, Shawn McKenzie and James Dewey, who fatally shot Jason Washington 9 times on June 29, 2018. The decision prompted outrage amongst the Portland State University Student Union (PSUSU), students, faculty, and the community.
PSUSU greeted the school year with a rally held for Jason Washington on Sept. 24, at 12pm.
The Sept. 24th rally started on the park blocks on the PSU campus, and migrated as a large march to the site of Washington’s murder. The march ended with the announcement of PSUSU’s occupation of the steps of PSU’s Campus Public Safety Office (CPSO). The occupation was promptly named “Occupation for Jason”.
Lasting 10 days, from the beginning of fall term until the Oct. 4th Board Of Trustees meeting, this occupation was designed to raise awareness about the murder of Washington, to put pressure on the BOT, to call for student and community participation, and to articulate the three demands of Disarm PSU.
The demands are as follow:
The immediate disarmament of PSU’s security officers
The immediate firing of Dewey and McKenzie
The construction of a permanent memorial to Washington led by his family.
The Disarm PSU campaign, a child of PSUSU, was born under the name “Demilitarize PSU” which began in 2013 after news leaked that PSU was considering arming PSU security officers. At that same time, the Board of Trustees was developed in order to begin the armament process. After 2 years of protesting and educating, Demilitarize PSU decided to change its name to “Disarm PSU” after armament was passed by the BOT in June of 2015.
Since the 2015 armament passed, Disarm PSU has worked to raise awareness and support for their cause by staging protests and walkouts. Disarm PSU has been teaming up with Don’t Shoot PDX.
Shortly Washington’s murder, Disarm PSU began working closely with Washington’s family, especially close with Jason’s Brother, Andre Washington. Andre attended PSUSU meetings regularly, and showed them support by buying them a button maker.
The Oct 4th Board of Trustees meeting hosted an open comment session for nearly three and a half hours. This session became a space for the student body, faculty, and community leaders to express their anger, distrust, and condemnation to the Board of Trustees, many of whom voted against the will of the school and community to arm the security officers.
Olivia Pace, who has been working with Disarm PSU for 4 years, addressed the board,
“Why did it take somebody dying for you to even consider [wrestling] with the issue again? Why do we still have to be here after somebody died on this campus? Why did we have to occupy the front of CPSO, why are we still here? This is ridiculous, you all look ridiculous… We are not on the fringe, we are part of a tradition of student movements working in conjunction [with] contemporary civil rights movements”
Signatures collected by Disarm PSU affirming their demands reached 5318 by the Oct 4th BOT meeting. More are still being collected.
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