Gaza Protesters’ Occupation of Library Puts Portland State University President in Difficult Position

An ask from university officials for protesters to vacate the steps of the library only entrenched the occupation.

PSU Palestine Protest (Eric Shelby)

Protesters supporting Palestine occupied the entrance of the Portland State University’s Millar Library for the third consecutive day as tensions between university officials and protesters grew.

At 7 pm on Monday evening, a crowd of about 200 people—many whom appeared to be Portland State students clad in black clothing and face coverings—milled around the block outside of the university’s library. Pro-Palestinian signs hung on the library steps and one protester yelled as the crowd echoed him, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the occupation has got to go!” Spray-painted messages were splashed across the library’s paneled windows.

Shortly after 7:30 pm, according to a statement they released, the protesters moved inside the library and said they would occupy it until their demands were met.

The protesters are demanding that PSU permanently cut all ties with Boeing (the university paused all gifts and grants from Boeing last week), call for a cease-fire in Gaza, and stop selling Israeli-made merchandise on campus. Boeing helped build Israel’s missile-defense system and shipped the nation bombs after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.

At 11 pm Monday, PSU president Ann Cudd said protesters had broken into the library. Police brass told press outlets that they hoped to resolve the situation without force, and Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt added that he would pursue charges for crimes such as breaking and entering.

Earlier in the day, university officials in a public statement asked that protesters dismantle camping structures that they’d built on the library steps—a move they made after Cudd met with protesters over the weekend and gave them tepid permission to protest outside of one of the library’s entrances.

“Over the weekend, PSU did not take immediate action against the encampment to avoid escalating the situation. However, since the weekend, the encampment has grown and has resulted in greater property damage and intimidation,” the school said in a statement. “Given growing health and safety risk to our campus community and interference with university operations, PSU is asking the protesters to vacate the library portico.”

But administrators’ Monday afternoon request seemed only to entrench the protest as the day wore on.

Just before 8 pm, the unversity reported on social media accounts “police activity” at the library. It’s so far unclear what the police are doing.

The protest at Portland State is part of a growing swell of students at colleges and universities who are staging similar protests at campuses across the nation, most notably at Columbia University. In Oregon, protests are occurring at Lewis & Clark College, Reed College and the University of Oregon. The student newspaper The Daily Emerald is providing live updates on the UO protests.

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