Updated May 3, 2024 - News

Portland State's library occupation ends with arrests

Three protestors run across a grass past a tree on Portland State Campus

Pro-Palestinian protesters run from Portland State University's Millar Library to evade police. Photo: Joseph Gallivan/Axios

Portland police ended this week's occupation of Portland State University's Millar Library, arresting at least 30 pro-Palestinian protesters by Thursday night.

Why it matters: Pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses across the country are escalating, and Portland's had a very fast turnaround.

The big picture: It took law enforcement officers some four hours to clear the library in the morning, but police said on X late Thursday that "trespassers" pulled down the fence and broke back into the library.

  • "Police officers moved back into the library and made arrests" there, per the post.
  • "Arrests have also been made for people refusing to leave the park block at the library."

By the numbers: Eight more arrests were made Thursday night in addition to 22 earlier in the day. Only seven of those arrested earlier in the day were PSU students, according to police posts to X.

State of play: Officers have "located the driver of a car who stopped near the crowd and sprayed some kind of pepper spray" at the demonstration earlier in the afternoon, police said in a post to X.

  • He was transported to a local hospital on a police mental health hold, per the post.
  • There have been tense moments between officers and protesters, and police said on X just after 4pm Thursday that the crowd had "refused to move back and comply with officers' directions" and one officer "has now sustained a leg injury and will be taken to a local hospital."
  • A post moments earlier said officers were being hit with water bottles thrown by members of the crowd at PSU.

What they're saying: "We took this step only after extensive negotiations using faculty members as intermediaries," PSU President Ann Cudd said in a written statement about the decision to use police to end the protest.

Catch up quick: Protesters took over the library Monday night, and campus buildings were closed Tuesday and Wednesday while the occupation continued.

  • As negotiations stalled around the students' demands for the university to cease business with companies connected to Israel, the Portland Police Bureau issued a warning Wednesday night that they would start making arrests.
  • Overnight, the protesters fortified themselves with wood and the soccer goals from the school's field.

Zoom in: Police in riot gear formed a one-block-deep perimeter with yellow tape at 6am Thursday, then issued notices via loudspeaker for the protesters to vacate the building or face arrest for trespass.

  • Around 9am about 20 protesters emerged, dressed mostly in black with helmets, shields and umbrellas, and sprinted across the South Park Blocks grass.
  • Police officers appeared to let most of them run away east to nearby streets, although they arrested one person in that group.

A crowd of onlookers across the park from the library spent much of that hour chanting slogans against the police and in favor of a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

  • The group grew, protesting the arrests throughout the day.

After clearing the building, Portland Police also posted pictures of improvised weapons they found inside the library, including paint balloons, ball bearings and DIY armor, none of which was used against police, they said.

What's next: Liz Merah, a spokesperson for the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, told Axios that a decision on charges could be made as early as Friday.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with police injuries and other developments.

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