Filed under: Action, Education, Northwest, Police
Hundreds of students in Eugene rallied and shut down Johnson Hall to demand divestment from the police.
Eugene, Oregon – On Sunday night, a broad coalition of racial, economic and climate justice student groups, along with a crowd of protestors marched to University of Oregon’s Johnson Hall to demand that the school implement initiatives make the University and its impacts on the community more just and equitable. These demands included disarming the UO police department and divesting from fossil fuels.
While students have been advocating for these demands for years in distinct groups and movements, this is the first time that these organizations have partnered together and identified their struggles are intrinsically related — and that they will only see meaningful change once the University’s Board of Trustees can be held accountable to the student body, and the broader community. As such, the students primary demand is that the Board be democratized immediately, to make these widely popular reforms possible.
DisarmUO, a student group at the University, provided this statement:
“The University of Oregon contains one of the most diverse populations in Oregon and the universities private police force only serves to harass and endanger people of color and other marginalized peoples both on and off campus. If the U of O continues to use a police force it’s not a question of if, but when a student of color is going to be harmed or killed by police.”
The organizers posit that while often considered a separate entity from broader Eugene/Springfield politics, the University of Oregon and the policies that it supports deeply impact not only the student body, but the rest of the community.
Patrick Schranck, an organizer with ReclaimUO and a student at the University said:
“From rising tuition rates driving gentrification throughout the area, to investments in the fossil fuel industry fueling climate change around the globe, the University of Oregon is not operating in a vacuum. It is time that the student body and our community at large can hold them accountable for their actions.”
The event began with a Black Lives Matter benefit concert to raise money for local BIPOC organizations including BIPOC Liberation Collective. During the event, students and community members spoke about the injustices enacted by the University of Oregon. Biting critiques of the university police — an armed force with jurisdiction in surrounding Eugene neighborhoods — were expressed. Speeches additionally addressed the intersectional nature of police violence, the climate crisis, and the neoliberal and undemocratic policies of the University of Oregon.
Rhiannon Lindgren, Vice President of Organizing of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) Graduate Student Union for University of Oregon Local 3544, said:
“Empowering the University of Oregon community to fight against white supremacy in both its daily and institutional iterations means providing direct and sustainable ways for students and workers to impact the governance of our campus. As it stands now, the appointment process and functionality of the Board of Trustees does not produce accountability, but instead, it suppresses the needs of students and employees and avoids implementing the material changes necessary for all students and workers at the UO to flourish.”
As the students marched towards the Johnson Hall, chants of “Divest, Disarm, Democratize” rang through the streets.