Sergio Cervantes/PSU Vanguard

Protesters blockade themselves inside the Millar Library

Campus closed while awaiting police response

Following a large protest on campus at around 7 p.m. on Monday, April 29, individuals entered and barricaded themselves inside Portland State’s Millar Library. The protesters allege that a window was accidentally broken by a camera and—fearing a police response—they entered and barricaded themselves inside. This narrative has not been confirmed. According to KOIN News, as many as 75 protesters entered the building.

In a late-night press conference on Monday, PSU President Ann Cudd noted that the Campus Public Safety Office (CPSO) was on the scene at the start of the incident but could not remove the protestors due to the size of the group. “Portland State University supports free speech… and we know this issue, the war in Gaza, is important to many individuals in our community,” Cudd said. “And emotions are running high, many feel that the injustices are just too large to ignore, and I understand this, but I cannot condone or excuse breaking and entering. I cannot condone property damage that has taken place at PSU’s library.”

Courtesy of Justin Chance Allen

Portland Police Chief Bob Day said that, with the protesters breaching of the library, this is no longer a free speech event but a criminal one. 

PSU has asked the Portland Police Bureau for assistance in removing the protestors, and Cudd asked that students go home. They did not give a timeline for the removal, and as of the afternoon of Tuesday, April 30, police have yet to arrive to remove protestors. 

On Tuesday, all buildings on campus remained locked and inaccessible to students and faculty. The closures came quickly Monday night and in response to concerns that protesters would enter and occupy other buildings around campus like they had the library. CPSO told community members on Tuesday morning that their goal was to keep everybody safe and to return facility access to PSU community members. 

Courtesy of Justin Chance Allen

Later on Tuesday, in a recorded message posted on Instagram and directed at the protestors, President Cudd requested once again that protesters—especially students—voluntarily leave the library, saying she wanted to engage in dialogue with them.

Protesters have maintained that the library is open to students. Some non-protesting students could be seen working at tables on the second floor of the library mid-day Tuesday. 

The occupying group has built a community-based encampment within the library, turning study rooms into supply caches and medical bays. They have stated students are still welcome to use library resources. According to a member of the occupying group, who asked to go by James, the organization operates in a horizontal structure with no defined leaders. 

Courtesy of Justin Chance Allen

“We’ve rearranged the furniture, but I just want you all to know that when you guys come in here, it’s no different than when you come in here with your fellow students on a normal day…’ James said. “We expect you to act exactly as if you were around a group of your peers, because that’s all this is.”

However, police officers said that because the situation is considered an active burglary, anyone inside the building, students included, could face felony charges. When asked if students entering the library knew that, James said that anyone entering the space is informed of the risk of occupying it. 

Unverified reports also mention equipment destruction within the library. When asked about those incidents, James said that several protesters were removed for belligerent behavior.

Courtesy of Justin Chance Allen

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said university spaces deserve to be safe for all. “Let me be clear: we will prosecute the cases,” Schmidt said. “… I expect that felony charges could be filed depending on what evidence we gather… If you’re in the library right now, it would be a good time to leave and go home and continue this conversation in a civil manner.”

The protestors provided a few statements explaining their motives and responding to the press conference. “We are living through an unprecedented mass mobilization of people across the globe, who are unwilling to perpetuate the same histories of colonial violence into our futures,” the protestors stated. “As a result, there will be fear; there will be disagreement; there will be those who attempt to spin the narrative; those who will try to divide and silence us; and those who will be unwilling to see that liberation cannot come from the very institutions that require violence and oppression to exist. And to this we say: the people united will never be divided.”


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