Week 1: Occupy PSU students remain encamped
One week in, student protesters show no signs of leaving their camp surrounding the Portland State University Campus Public Safety building.
"We know they don't want us here," said organizer Olivia Pace on Saturday, Sept. 29. "This does not make the university look good."
The protest honors Jason Washington, who was fatally shot by two PSU officers attempting to break up an intoxicated street fight outside a dormitory complex in late June. Bystander testimony and police footage show that Washington's lawfully-carried handgun fell out of his pocket. He picked up the gun and was shot seconds later after police told him to drop it.
Sunday marks the seventh day since students staked tents and listed their demands, which include a permanent memorial to Washington, the disarming of all PSU police and the firing of officers involved in the shooting.
The camp is a far cry from the rag-tag city that sprung up around a federal immigration facility for five weeks this summer. So far, the PSU protest outpost consists of a half-dozen tents, separate containers for trash and co-mingled recycling, portable batteries for electronics and tables where the occupiers pass out literature and encourage passersby to sign their petition.
"We give them the facts," explained protester Josh Thomas. "We tell them what happened to Jason, why it was wrong."
Administrators have required the students leave a clear path from the steps to the building's front door, though the security office has multiple entrances. The demonstrators have created a list of "ground rules" that include no interaction with PSU leadership or police, as well as prohibitions on drug use or oppressive language.
The surrounding sprinklers came as a surprise when they activated at 3 a.m. on night one of the protest. They're now covered with plastic bottles to minimize the spray. PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi has been spotted walking past the encampment but has never stopped.
"We don't need supplies. We need people," said Pace, a leader with the Portland State University Student Union and an enrolled student who will graduate next year.
Several others staffing the proverbial barricades said they view themselves as future PSU students.
"I want to see people be safe here," said Thomas, who moved to the city from Florida recently. "There's a lot of violence coming from police officers with no consequences. That needs to change."
Another person has been volunteering for the "night watch" mounted when the sun goes down each day. He gives his name as Maryland after double-checking how the state is spelled, and explains that an alias is necessary because he is currently involved in several lawsuits.
"I've been an activist since the '90s," Maryland, 39, said. "It's pathetic the way (PSU) handled it."
The PSU enrolled students have key cards that allow them to access buildings with bathrooms and showers. Some of the students have apparently lost their late-night access to certain areas, though Pace thinks it's a coincidence.
Several nearby businesses also have bathrooms and friendly staff. Bags of trash are dropped in a nearby dumpster or taken away by car.
The protesters have heard the counterargument that armed police are necessary in case of a school shooting — but they aren't buying it.
"Campus security are not trained to deescalate a school shooting," said one occupier who asked not to be identified, citing security reasons. "Campus security should not have guns."
This article has been updated.