PSU students join thousands of demonstrators at #J20 protest

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Police deployed sound grenades, flash bangs and eventually smoke and pepper gas canisters at the Jan. 20 protest. Briana Ybanez/PSU Vanguard

About 90 people, mostly Portland State students, gathered at the Park Blocks for a campus-wide walkout at 2 p.m. Jan. 20.

According to flyers placed around campus, the walkout was to protest the “undemocratic election” of an “admitted homophobic, transphobic, anti-immigrant, islamaphobic [sic], racist, rapist to the office of President.”

Editor’s note: No commas in original flyer text.

Andy Ngo/Portland State Vanguard
A flyer promoting the walkout. Associated Students of PSU and other student organizations are listed as involved in organizing the event.

The event facilitated a series of student speakers who spoke out against what the future policies of the Trump administration might entail. They also criticized his actions and rhetoric during the presidential campaign.

The speeches began with a condemnation of PSU President Wim Wiewel’s letter concerning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Proponents of the BDS ASPSU resolution, which passed last fall, believe Wiewel’s favorable attitude towards Israel negatively impacts Palestinian students on campus.

Later topics included thoughts on Trump and his relationship towards disadvantaged minority communities and people with disabilities. One speaker noted that students that belong to a minority group do not feel safe on campus.

The Vanguard spoke with one lead organizer, Donald Thompson III, who stated that ASPSU along with other organizations were involved in planning the anti-Trump walkout at PSU.

ASPSU is officially the non-partisan student body government of PSU. “ASPSU is non-partisan, they do not contribute money for any political purpose,” said Candace Avalos, Coordinator for Student Government and Advisor for Greek Life. “They are at their core non-partisan. They pass bills and resolutions that people feel are partisan but they pursue those things at the interests of students.”

Video report of the PSU walkout protest and demonstration at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Andy Ngo/PSU Vanguard

As PSU students ended their walkout in the Park Blocks and began their march toward Pioneer Courthouse Square to join the “Rise Up and Resist Fascism: Inauguration Day Protest,” one of the chants included the phrase, “Down with the whole system [capitalism].”

Philosophy student Justin Richter, who attended the protest at the Square, conveyed that socialism captures the imagination of many students on campus, although they may not be familiar with how socialist theory has been put into practice.

“I don’t think they know what true socialism looks like,” Richter said. “I don’t think they know the kind of things that one would have to give up.”

At Pioneer Courthouse Square, thousands of protesters filled the space carrying such signs as “Fuck Trump” and “White silence = violence.” Several dozen masked anarchists also gathered near the center. A member from the group warned a Vanguard reporter not to record footage of them.

Last November, Portland Police identified some of the masked vandals at the anti-Trump protest-turned-riot through video footage and photos.

After sunset, many protesters left the event but around a thousand remained. They marched around downtown Portland and cycled through various slogans representing the diverse group of anti-Trump, pro-choice, Black Lives Matter, pro-migrant and socialist demonstrators.

Video report on the protest after sunset. Andy Ngo/PSU Vanguard

Some protesters burned American flags and called for a revolution.

“It is our divine right to use violent revolution in order to take our government back,” said Kale McCollough, an engineering student at PSU. “The founding forefathers would roll over in their graves if they knew that our own government was controlled by fascists.”

Tuna, also a student at PSU, held a sign that read, “Witches against Trump.” She said that being a queer woman was among one of the many reasons she came to protest. “We don’t stand for having a racist, bigoted person as our leader,” Tuna said. “We didn’t choose this, it was forced on us.”

Protesters were eventually blocked from crossing the Steel Bridge by a police-line barricade. The barricade caused TriMet to reroute bus and MAX lines. As protesters made their way south on Naito Parkway, anti-police sentiment was increasingly reflected in the chants.

Protesters shouted, “Fuck the police” and “All cops are bastards.”

Demonstrators marched back to Pioneer Courthouse Square where more police closed off street access to protest. Gregory McKelvey, a leader with Portland’s Resistance, told local media the day before the protest that his group would not release their marching routes. “We want to keep [the police] guessing,” McKelvey told KOIN 6.

In contrast to the police’s laissez-faire approach before and during the anti-Trump protest on Nov. 10, 2016, which left many businesses damaged by rioting, the police responded quicker and more forcefully this time.

After the crowd refused to heed the loudspeaker warnings to leave Pioneer Courthouse Square at approximately 8 p.m., police deployed sound grenades, flash bangs and eventually smoke and/or pepper gas canisters. Some media outlets reported that tear gas was used, but Portland Police said in a tweet that it was pepper spray.

The remaining 150 or so protesters dispersed completely by 9 p.m.

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