This story has been updated with the latest number of arrests and additional details about Thursday's police response and an attack on protesters.

Police cleared Portland State University’s Branford Price Millar library this morning, three days after students and other activists broke in and began occupying the building, and six days since demonstrators erected tents on the university’s park lawns.

The ongoing occupation-style protest at PSU’s library mirrored the scene at university campuses across the US in recent weeks, as students and allies urge a cease-fire in Gaza and push for their colleges to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Beginning at 6 am, officers with the Portland Police Bureau announced via loudspeaker that they would soon begin removing those inside the perimeter of the South Park Blocks or Millar Library—by 7:50 am that changed to charging those inside with second degree trespass. By 10 pm,  police reported at least 30 arrests were made, at least seven of which were PSU students.  

News of police action at the Millar library came as a surprise to students who had been told by the university that classes would resume Thursday morning. A little after 7am, PSU emailed students to advise them that the campus would again be closed. Buildings that would have normally opened to a PSU ID, including a dining hall, remained locked.

While local press outlets were held behind yellow police line tape, movements inside the library were recorded and shared on PPB social media accounts.

As reports from activists in the early morning suggested there were around 70 people inside the library, the comparably low number of arrests so far may be related to a sudden rush of people who ran out of the building just after 9 am.

Police said one officer was sprayed in the face with a fire extinguisher during the library raid. An arrest followed shortly afterward.

“We encountered a lot of barricades, a lot of things put in our way to try to slow us down. That did cause it to take a couple of hours to clear the building,” PPB Sgt. Kevin Allen said Thursday during a noon press conference.

Portland police officers and Oregon state troopers arrest a protester
removed from the campus library Thursday. suzette smith

Officers encountered other hurdles during their hours-long operation Thursday morning. A crowd successfully blocked a police custody van where activists were detained as it tried to leave. State troopers helped PPB officers clear a path.

Not long after the library encampment was cleared, police were met with hundreds of students and other protesters, who showed up in force to oppose the police presence on campus, chanting for Palestine and yelling for officers to leave.

PPB later confirmed that officers deployed pepper spray on protesters at one point Thursday afternoon, but stopped short of saying what led them to use it. Protesters were also maced by the driver of a white sedan with temporary registration that briefly drove into the crowd. The driver fled on foot, but was later found and arrested by campus police, then transported to a local hospital on a mental health hold.

Before sundown Thursday after police left, protesters were quick to replace barricades and signs, re-establishing their presence on campus.

Despite PSU and police publicly denouncing the library takeover as “criminal activity,” students and faculty are getting support from a professional educators' union.

As police swarmed the PSU campus Thursday, the Oregon affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents more than 18,000 college professors and K-12 workers, decried the police response and affirmed its support for students and college staff participating in protests against the Israel/Hamas war.

“AFT-Oregon leaders stand in solidarity with those who are exercising their fundamental rights to protest injustice, hold institutions accountable, and exercise academic freedom,” a statement from AFT-Oregon reads. “We stand in opposition to police repression and the suspension, expulsion, or retaliation of our union members and the students we serve at Oregon’s colleges and universities, such as at PSU and UO where demonstrations are ongoing.”

Police officers prepare to close access to the perimeter around the PSU library,
where protesters camped out for nearly a week. courtney vaughn

The union affirmed the right to peacefully protest, and disrupt “business as usual,” saying educators feel a duty “to amplify the voices of those fighting for freedom, dignity, and self-determination, and to oppose oppression and injustice.”

Around Oregon, Reed College, Lewis & Clark College, and the University of Oregon have also seen demonstrations, and inquiries from students about their college’s endowments and financial ties.

On Tuesday, students at Lewis & Clark College marched to the Manor House on campus, which houses the university president’s office, business and operations, and other administrative offices, to share concerns over which companies are funding the college.

In a letter to students, Lewis & Clark said the college’s president is “committed to sharing the students’ concerns with those who make investment decisions and manage the endowment on behalf of the college.”

So far, no other demonstrations at Oregon colleges have escalated to the levels seen at PSU.

In the days leading up to Thursday’s police raid at PSU, protesters camped inside the library got mixed messages from university officials and law enforcement.

Hundreds gather on the Portland State University campus May 2, to protest
police presence after a week-long occupation shut down the school's library. courtney vaughn

Late Monday, hours after the library was first breached, PSU President Ann Cudd joined police and the Multnomah County District Attorney to announce that police would soon clear the building and make arrests. That didn’t immediately happen.

During the course of the nearly week-long occupation at the university, protest organizers conveyed a list of demands. Among those demands: PSU would issue a statement condemning the genocide in Gaza with US-supplied weapons and demand a cease-fire; disclose the university’s investments and donors; end any future student or staff trips to Israel and end the sale of any Israeli products on campus; terminate all ties with aircraft and weapons manufacturer Boeing, citing human rights violations as the reason; disarm all campus police; and include education about Palestine in the schools’s ethnic studies program, alongside other efforts to fund causes and projects that align with PSU’s anti-racist values.

The university agreed to pause its financial support from Boeing, but stopped short of making that permanent.

Protesters also asked that no student participating in the library occupation would face criminal or academic consequences. Cudd said she was communicating with protest organizers, and trying to meet their list of demands. She initially promised that students wouldn’t be punished if they agreed to leave peacefully. 

Organizers say the president misrepresented her efforts to negotiate with protesters, claiming PSU administrators requested their names and student ID numbers. 

“We worked to comply with their demands initially, however, when we realized that they were not willing to work with us—we were left with no option but to escalate,” a social media post stated. “It is imperative that people are aware that we, students, are here nonviolently with no intent of committing damage or violence.”

Cudd, who addressed press outlets Thursday alongside the police chief, mayor, and DA, said university staff haven’t accessed the library and hadn’t had time to survey the interior damage, which spans several floors. Portland firefighters say a fire alarm system in the library was damaged. Cudd said she believes some “very old, archival material” was stolen from the library, based on reports she received from PSU’s campus safety team, and media coverage.

“What we’ve seen take place so far on the Park Blocks, while distressing to see, has been peaceful and calm overall, which is an immense relief,” Cudd said in a statement released by her office Thursday morning. "The safety and well being of our campus community is our top priority.”

Cudd said PSU intends to reopen the campus buildings “as soon as possible.”