Portland State protesters pledge to stay put until campus cops disarm

Activists launched the occupation during the first day of classes after a man was fatally shot by campus police in June while witnesses say he tried to break up a fight

By Shane Dixon Kavanaugh
The Oregonian

PORTLAND, Ore. — A group calling on Portland State University to end its policy of arming campus police officers said Tuesday that it would continue an around-the-clock occupation outside the school's public safety building.

"This is the escalation we need," said Olivia Pace, an organizer with the PSU Student Union, during a news conference. "The administration is about to be at a tipping point where they have to crack under the pressure."

Pace said 20 people spent Monday night camped out in front of the school safety headquarters on Southwest Broadway and Montgomery Street.

Activists launched the occupation during the first day of classes and after around 200 people held a demonstration and candlelight vigil for Jason Washington, a husband and father of three who was fatally shot by campus police in June while witnesses say he tried to break up a fight.

Washington, 45, wound up holding a friend's handgun amid a drunken melee outside the Cheerful Tortoise when Officers James Dewey and Shawn McKenzie ordered him to drop the weapon, authorities said.

Within seconds of the command, the officers opened fire. Nine bullets struck Washington, according to police and the Multnomah County medical examiner's office. 

The school released body cam video of both officers, which captured a chaotic scene before and after the shooting.

Records show Washington had a blood-alcohol content of 0.24 percent when he died, three times above the legal limit for driving in Oregon. A concealed handgun license carrier, he had confiscated the friend's gun after a night of drinking, according to police reports. 

A grand jury this month decided not to indict the two officers, who have since returned to work. The Multnomah District Attorney's Office plans to release transcripts of the hearing. 

Washington's death marked the first fatal shooting by the university's police force, which began carrying guns three years ago in a decision decried by activists and many students.

The occupiers said they plan to remain camped out in front of the public safety building until the school permanently disarms its police force.

They are also demanding that PSU fire Dewey and McKenzie, who remain at their jobs, and for the school to establish a permanent memorial for him on campus.

Pace said the student-led occupation would not attempt to shut down the public safety building but would serve as a reminder of Washington's death and the continued opposition to armed police officers at the school.

She also urged students and members of the public to attend the university's Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 4.

A PSU spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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