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The University of Oregon Police Department, formerly the Department of Public Safety, was established in 2012. Now, campus-based activist groups are calling for the disarming, defunding, and dismantling of UOPD. Campus-based activist groups across the country call for disarming and defunding their university police departments. Some groups at the University of Oregon have recently made these same demands. (Summer Surgent-Gough/Emerald)

Disarm UO has hosted multiple events protesting against the University of Oregon Police Department and Eugene Police Department and calling for the abolition of policing in recent weeks. The group is building upon the work of prior Disarm campaigns at the university — including in 2018 — though this time through a fully abolitionist lens.

Cat Kelly, Disarm’s press representative, said after Minneapolis police officer Derrick Chauvin murdered George Floyd last year, “it became really, really apparent that we needed to do this work.”

Unlike prior iterations of Disarm, this year’s movement is based fully on abolishing police rather than reform. Kelly said the group has specifically drawn on the #8toAbolition campaign when defining its goals — the third point of which calls for the removal of police from schools.

“We've done a lot of community outreach,” Kelly said, “talking to community members and talking to our most marginalized community members so that we can support that struggle without asking those people to do the work.”

Disarm has also hosted and participated in a number of events in the past couple weeks. Among those was a rally for Eliborio Rodriguez, who a UOPD officer illegally stopped at gunpoint in 2018. Kelly said Disarm wanted to acknowledge that Rodriguez was stopped on campus and to tie that into cycles of trauma and police violence more broadly. An EPD officer killed Rodriguez in November 2019.

Kelly said Disarm members gave speeches, talked about Rodriguez’s case and made art for a memorial at the site where UOPD stopped him. 

Members also participated in a National Day of Refusal march in collaboration with Cops off Campus Coalition on May 4. 

Beyond in-person events, Kelly said Disarm is working to collect testimonies about people’s interactions with UOPD. Disarm is doing this largely because UOPD doesn’t publicly publish the complaints against itself, Kelly said. They said it’s important that prospective students — especially students of color — have the ability to learn about policing on a given campus before they commit to that school. 

Access to public testimony also helps Disarm have better conversations about police violence on campus, Kelly said. The submission form is encrypted so people can be completely anonymous when submitting their stories.

According to UOPD’s complaint review committee rules, all information received in a complaint is “strictly confidential and may be disclosed only to the extent expressly authorized by law.”

Disarm has read submitted testimonies out loud at various events and posted them anonymously on its social media, Kelly said. 

On top of rallies and collecting testimony, Disarm hosted a public meeting in collaboration with Eugene Housing and Neighborhood Defense on May 13 to talk about the intersection between policing and housing — specifically through lenses of gentrification and student housing.  

Kelly said public events like that with Eugene HAND is one way Disarm is working to engage and educate the UO community. “We see Disarm UO as a larger campaign,” they said, “not as a closed group of people who can decide what it looks like.”

Disarm will also start to table outside the EMU to better engage with the UO community, a representative from the group said at the event with HAND.

Working with the broader Eugene community is an important part of furthering Disarm’s goals, Kelly said. However, they said, Disarm wants to take a broader perspective by incorporating the needs of the larger community UO exists within as well as the carceral system.

Going forward, Disarm is hoping to organize around the upcoming Olympic Track & Field trials, which will be held in Eugene in June. “We know globally when the Olympics happen, it pushes out and displaces poor people,” a Disarm member said at the May 13 meeting.

While Kelly said those plans are still a work in progress, Disarm sees the Olympic trials as an instance where UOPD and EPD could crack down on homeless individuals who are residing near UO’s campus.

“We recognize that the university doesn't exist in a silo and that it's a part of a larger community,” they said. “Working on abolition means that we have to work on abolition on campus, which can look like abolishing campus police.”