Nearly 100 students walked out of the PSU Convocation opening ceremonies to protest the administration’s decision to arm campus security last December.
Inside the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom the diverse crowd of students chanted “Disarm PSU!” and “Black Lives Matter!” before leading the rally into the streets of downtown.
Olivia Pace, freshman at PSU and an organizer for the school’s student union who organized the event said the group’s attempts to work with administration to reverse their decision have gone ignored.
“[We] have tried for over a year to speak to the administration to try and stop the arming of campus security,” Pace said. “President Wim Wiwel and the Board of Trustees have ignored our pleas, so this is the only option left: to interrupt business as usual. President Wim asked us to have respect for the other students at the convocation. We’ve been asking for respect from the campus administration for the entire year. We’re ready to go, we’ll be working on this all year.”
Another freshman, first-year international student from Belgium, Grace Fazila joined the walkout after hearing the story of Sam Dubose, a Black man who’d been shot-and-killed by a campus police officer during a routine traffic stop in Cincinnati earlier this year.
Dubose’s killer, Officer Ray Tensing has since been indicted on the charge of murder.
“I never realized being Black was an issue until I came to the United States,” Fazila said at the Sept. 21 demonstration. “This makes me feel unsafe on campus. School should be a place of learning. You should not feel unsafe here.”
The campus officers are trained by the Portland Police Bureau before receiving their firearms.
To date, the university has four armed campus police officers: one sergeant, two patrol officers and one detective.
Last year, before approving the proposal to add armed officers to their campus, Portland State spokesperson Scott Gallagher told The Skanner said response time for the city’s police bureau in a non-emergency situation can be up to 20 minutes.
If there were an active shooter, the armed police officers assigned to the university could respond within 60 seconds, according to the university. The PSU campus is less than a mile from the Portland Police Bureau’s downtown precinct building.