Portland State Library Occupiers Reject University’s Amnesty Deal

John Rudoff/AFP via Getty Images
John Rudoff/AFP via Getty Images

A number of protesters occupying a library at Portland State University rejected a deal to stand down on Wednesday morning, after they found the university president’s offer of legal amnesty questionable, and said she failed entirely to address their demand that the school divest from Boeing.

University president Ann Cudd said that she was given verbal assurances from negotiators working for the protesters inside Millar Library that they would accept her offer, which she said promised protection from suspension and expulsion, as well as criminal charges, if they left the library by 1:30 a.m. However, student organizers ultimately refused to take the deal.

“I fervently wish that the students in the library had signed on to our agreement, but, after their negotiators told us they had a deal, they apparently chose not to sign,” Cudd said, in a letter to the campus community sent on Wednesday morning.

Shortly after the deal fell through, around 50 protesters exited the library—leaving only a small, steadfast group inside the occupied building.

On Wednesday afternoon, the remaining protesters released a statement claiming that Cudd was lying about the deal, according to a report posted to Instagram by PSU Vanguard, the student newspaper.

“Their statement claimed that Cudd had lied numerous times,” said Zoe Burmaster, of the PSU Vanguard. She said the protesters had called the president’s lofty promises “utterly false,” and they noted that, “amnesty was a very important condition for negotiations to even begin with.”

According to protesters, Cudd demanded they identify themselves by name and student ID, which they would release to the District Attorney’s office if requested. Cudd said the administration would cooperate with requests from local law enforcement and prosecutors.

In their statement, protesters determined that Cudd did not have the authority to grant legal amnesty to protesters. That power rests with Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who had refused to come to the table, according to the PSU Vanguard. On Tuesday, Schmidt posted about the occupying protesters on X, promising to “prosecute these cases when they come to my office.”

Cudd told protesters she would recommend their charges be lowered to a misdemeanor, according to the PSU Vanguard report.

The protesters also criticized Cudd’s offer because it failed to mention their demands for the university to divest from Boeing, which helped to develop Israel’s missile defense system, and has continued to arm the IDF as it continues a brutal military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

Students at Portland State University have been pushing for the university to cut ties with the aerospace giant since mid-October, shortly after Israel launched its assault on Gaza. Boeing has donated $150,000 to name a classroom and provides $28,000 a year for scholarships and emergency funds for students, according to the PSU Vanguard.

Cudd had told protesters she would meet with them at a later date to discuss the “remaining concerns of the protest to continue our dialogue on how Portland State can continue to advance the interests of peace and humanity in our world.”

The students have barricaded themselves inside the building, spray painting the walls with slogans such as “Genocide is an Emergency,” and “Stop Cop City.”

In Cudd’s letter she urged protesters to stop destroying school property. “We have no control over what happens in the Middle East; we do have control over how we treat each other,” she said. Protesters criticized her use of the phrase “Middle East,” as opposed to naming Gaza directly, according to the PSU Vanguard report.

Since occupying the building on Monday, protesters have maintained that the building is open for students, and on Tuesday some non-protesting students were reportedly studying inside the building, according to the PSU Vanguard.

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