Liberated Zone grows at UO, nears completion of first school week

On day four of the encampment, the Liberated Zone expanded to the edge of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. The number of tents has more than doubled since the end of day one, to over 100 tents occupying the Memorial Quad. Thursday afternoon students began to move supply tents to the middle of the quad to be more central as they expand farther down the lawn.

“It’s gotten even bigger than I could have imagined. I was like concerned about this spot because it was like, wow, this lawn is so huge. We’re going to look so tiny and puny. But we just keep growing like every day. More people are in tents. We’ve got really good vibes,” said Carolyn Roderique, a media liason for the encampment.

As police across country have been violently reacting to similar peaceful pro-Palestine protests, campus labor unions have put out statements demanding UO not take similar steps. These include GTFF, SEIU 503, and United Academics. These unions have only come out in favor of free speech of the protestors, and not endorsed the Liberated Zone action.

The UO Student Workers Union took it a step further in a statement titled “Solidarity with the Encampment Protester and Condemning Repression.” In it they say “We stand with and support the students and stand firmly against the use of law enforcement, firing or academic discipline of any of the students exercising their rights.” Adding on that they stand with their parent union UAW in calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza

The ASUO Senate agreed to a resolution this week in support of free speech of the protesters. Additionally asking the UO President “to communicate the concerns of students surrounding the UO Foundation’s investments in entities which support the military-industrial complex and Israel’s war.” Roderique says that she appreciates the statement but hopes they also pass resolutions centering Palestine, not just solidarity protests and free speech, and one specifically mentioning Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, to put pressure on the university.

In statements to the UO Senate, President John Karl Scholz was dismisive of calls for divestment, saying that there is a “performative aspect” to this demand. This was a follow-up to a statement he put out calling boycotts and divestments “antithetical” to the university’s obligations. The same day, the university circulated a letter to students at the encampment saying that they are in violation of UO policies, but did not give any deadline.

On Thursday, the UO Palestine Coaliton sent a letter to Scholz to mark disagreement with the president’s statement and reiterate their demands.

“BDS is a core demand of our encampment, and we will not disband until we are met with an effective response, actionable plan, and accountability from your administration to divest from this genocide, both financially and academically,” the statement reads.