Call to Action: Solidarity with Occupy PSU!

Press Release from Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front

Solidarity with Occupy PSU and against campus police.

For immediate release:

On September 24th, 2018, a march organized by the Portland State University Student Union took place in memory of Jason Washington, who was shot and killed on campus on June 29th of this year by PSU police officers while trying to break up a fight. The march re-ignited the call to #DisarmPSU, a movement started over 4 years ago, before Portland State Security was deputized and before any armed police force existed on campus. This movement started because students anticipated that the implementation of a militarized campus security force would result in a campus environment that was more dangerous for students and for the Portland community at large, Black and Brown folks in particular. Sadly, Jason’s death at the hands of PSU officers exists as a confirmation of this anticipation, and follows a long line of similar instances on college campuses all over the so-called United States. Scout Schultz was killed by a Georgia Tech police officer on campus almost a year ago to the day while experiencing a mental health crisis. Samuel DuBose was killed by a University of Cincinnati officer during a routine traffic stop in 2015. In 2010, Everette Howard was killed after being shot with a taser that was deployed by yet another U of C officer while trying to break up a fight in a campus dormitory, a circumstance all too familiar in the case of Jason’s death. Countless other students have died at the hands of campus police officers, and today, students of color in particular are overwhelmingly more likely to be killed by campus police officers than white students.

In truth, the origins of campus police departments are deeply steeped in racist traditions. The development of university police departments initially arose in response to the social movements for racial equality in the 1960’s and 70’s, and, more specifically, the de-segregation of public schools and the increase in educational opportunities for people of color. University police departments came into widespread existence primarily as a result of the increasing presence of people of color in institutions of higher learning, and, much like the broader institution of policing in the U.S., campus police officers have, historically and now, often served to repress and stifle protest and dissent originating from Black and Brown students and student organizations. Additionally, 92 percent of public universities, which are significantly more likely to be more racially diverse, have armed police forces incorporated into the university system, compared to just 32 percent of private universities, which are significantly dominated by white, middle-class student bodies, even though public and private universities often exist in cities and communities with similar rates of crime. This juxtaposition between the presence of armed police officers on public campuses and the lack of armed police officers on private campuses, then, is not based on differences in crime rates between the communities that these universities exist within, but on racist assumptions of the inherent criminality of a more racially diverse student body. We assert, then, that campus policing, just like the broader institution of policing, is a deliberately radicalized institution, one that acts primarily to preserve and uphold the racial inequalities that exist in broader society within institutions of higher learning, and to reinforce the stereotypical criminalization of Black and Brown folks.

PSU president Rahmat Shoureshi, and PSU officials, claim to be deeply shaken by Jason’s death, and to be “determined to learn from it”, but their actions as of yet stand in stark contrast to these performative gestures from the university administration, most notably when president Shoureshi allowed a temporary memorial erected for Jason to be destroyed. Now, activists are occupying the Campus Public Safety Office, where PSU police operate, and vow to continue #OccupyPsu until their list of demands is met. The occupation calls for 1. The immediate disarming of all PSU officers, to include lethal weapons and any less-than-lethal weapons that have a statistically significant record of injuring, maiming, or killing individuals 2. The firing of PSU officers Shawn McKenzie and James Dewey, the two officers who murdered Jason Washington. 3. The design and erection of a permanent memorial for Jason Washington on the PSU campus, led and directed by the Washington family

The participants of the occupation will not relent until all of these demands are met in their full form, and will accept no proposals that do not meet these demands in their entirety. We urge President Shoureshi and the PSU administration to take these demands seriously, and to take visible and timely measures to begin addressing these demands and taking responsibility for Jason Washington’s unjustified murder.

We are calling for immediate solidarity with Portland State University activists, the Washington family, and the fight against the arming of campus police officers. Unjust murders like Jason Washington’s can be prevented. They will be prevented.
Join us on October 4th, 2018 in solidarity with the Occupiers at PSU, as students around the country protest armed security guards on their campuses