The various uses and meanings of the word “fuck” are nearly uncountable and usually offensive, but despite its lack of definitive meaning the message it conveys is fairly clear. Chants of “Fuck Donald Trump” both started the Portland State student walkout at noon on Nov. 16 and continued intermittently throughout the event.
A few hundred students at PSU gathered in conjunction with other college walkouts around the nation to signify a public opposition to President-elect Donald Trump, though the number of students who actually walked out of class could not be determined.
“Class attendance may be a bit down since the election,” said Professor Sharon Carstens, who noted low attendance during the event but could not conclude the protest as a reason.
“I have noticed a small drop in attendance post-election, though I am not sure what to attribute this to,” said Professor Charles Klein. “Often attendance declines at the end of the quarter. For Wednesday there may have been perhaps three or four fewer people in class.”
The walkout lasted two-and-a-half hours and primarily involved public speakers, both organized and from the crowd. After more than an hour of speaking in the park blocks, the protest moved to the Market Center Building where PSU President Wim Wiewel’s office is on the 8th floor. After reading a list of demands, the students then marched to the red bricks in front of the Student Academic and Recreation Center for more public speaking and then dispersed.
Topics discussed at the event varied, but a repeated focus was that they would campaign for PSU to be a “sanctuary university,” a system used in many cities which does not prosecute illegal immigrants based on their immigration status or hold illegal immigrants until the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency can pick them up for deportation.
The front lobby of the Market Center Building was occupied for approximately 15 minutes as a speaker read aloud a demand letter to the PSU Board of Trustees. The demands included PSU barring police from enforcing immigration laws on campus and forbidding the university from releasing information to ICE.
Two days later, on Nov. 18, President Wim Wiewel sent an email to PSU students stating that PSU would indeed be a sanctuary campus.
“We as a community share a commitment to the protection and support of all of our students, regardless of immigration status, national origin, religion or any similar characteristics,” the email stated. “Therefore, we declare that [PSU] is a sanctuary campus dedicated to the principles of equity, diversity and safety.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, future Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Portland would be a sanctuary city. He also said he would wait to see what the Trump policies around sanctuary cities would be in terms of the cutting of federal funding.
Police presence at the walkout was minimal, mostly comprised of campus security and police. Four motorcycle police escorted the crowd as they marched.
Close by, on 13th Ave. between Clay and Market streets, a row of police vehicles marked and unmarked sat parked. Nine or ten police in riot gear were visible standing outside, and an unknown number of others were inside of the vehicles, some visible.
A second issue of focus was for listeners to join groups fighting for racial justice, of which a number were listed by both organizers and the crowd. Speakers reiterated this was just a beginning in gearing up for a larger school walkout on Jan. 20, the inauguration of President-elect Trump.
“If you’re not in an organization fighting for racial justice, you need to be,” a speaker said.
Not all attendees agreed with the messages of the many speakers and their varying political viewpoints and ideologies.
“I attended because I’m in favor of nonviolent direct action in opposition to the Trump agenda, which I believe is illegal and immoral,” said Conflict Resolution Professor Tom Hastings.
“I initially intended to bring my class to the event at two—I had already posted to my class as such—but then one of the speakers said everyone should ‘learn to shoot a gun.’ I left and canceled that field trip,” Hastings continued.
A few speakers brought up the idea of bystander intervention, which is being taught on the PSU campus. This refers to witnesses intervening in situations in which other individuals are being harassed or are in danger.
“I want you to pledge that you will stand in front of that person being attacked,” said one speaker.
“Do not leave here just feeling good about yourself,” another speaker said and asked members of various organizations to raise their hands, again encouraging the crowd to get involved in some capacity.
Groups mentioned included: Associated Students of PSU, PSU Student Union, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, Rural Organizing Project, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Portland State International Socialist Organization, Portland Tenants United and Know Your City.
The crowd was mostly calm and attentive to listeners and numbered in the hundreds, but numbers dropped significantly when the crowd marched to the Market Center Building a few blocks away. Numbers in attendance fell further after the list of demands had been stated.