Roughly 500 students marched through the University of Oregon campus Thursday afternoon demanding that the administration exhibit stronger dedication to the safety and representation of marginalized groups.
Black Women of Achievement, a UO student organization, planned the demonstration with the help of other groups dedicated to representing historically underrepresented students on campus.
The protesters filled the Ford Alumni center at 1 p.m. Inside the ballroom, Harvard professor and renowned racial justice author Charles Ogletree delivered a presentation on the Black Lives Matter movement. During his speech, a large crowd organized directly outside.
“Black Lives Matter!” and “We are Mizzou,” chanted the students a few minutes later as they moved towards Johnson Hall. Before reaching the administrative building, the crowd cut through the EMU and increased in size as more students, after finishing class and work, joined.
Students at the University of Missouri criticized a lack of acknowledgement toward the campus’s racist history, and the protest at the UO encouraged students to reflect on the history of their campus as well. Deady Hall, for example, is named after Seventh Associate Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court Matthew Deady. Deady held pro-slavery beliefs, discriminatory views against African Americans and took an anti-Chinese position during the 1857 constitutional debates, according to the Oregon Historical Society.
“Deady Hall must go!” students called.
Once the protestors reached the steps of Johnson Hall, discussion turned to a wider range of social justice issues. Students of various racial identities delivered testimonials about their experiences with racial oppression.
Senior David Spencer described an incident in which three police officers pointed guns at his face while searching for a robbery suspect at a RadioShack 42 miles away.
“Three police officers came around, everyone jumped out, pulled a gun on me, two of them grabbed me and another one body slammed my backpack,” Spencer said.
Graduate student Ricardo Velasquez said that, while walking home from his office, a police officer followed him in a car over a curb for 10 ten minutes. He also described two episodes of racist language being directed at him. This past Tuesday, he said a group of men in a car called him the n-word.
“Another group of white men came up to me and started making racist noises and racist chants,” he said. “Arriba! Arriba! Speedy Gonzales shit.”
The students also planned two meetings for that evening to discuss ways to combat the problems they highlighted on Thursday. One was for black-identified students and the other was for supporters who do not identify as black. The organizers repeatedly stressed that the issues they called out are things that students of all backgrounds should be concerned with.
“If there is an eye for an eye, everybody ends up blind,” said Spencer, quoting Mohandas Gandhi. “We don’t have to let the world run us. We are one, and we need unity among everyone here, because we deserve to be safe just like everybody else.”