PSU Community leaders, students, and members of the corporate press attended a press conference last night at PSU's Smith Center held to discuss remarks made to the Oregonian by Oregon Senator Gordon Smith. |
Yesterday's Oregonian had an article in which Senator Smith claimed that terrorist related fundraising have happened at PSU.
PSU President, Daniel Bernstine, opened the meeting with a letter he received from Senator Gordon Smith allegedly containing an apology for the statements. The conference was then opened to speeches by members of the Association of African Students, MEChA, the Rearguard, and the Women's Resource Center.
Michael Habtemariam, President of the Association of African Students, told the conference such statements were shocking and offensive. In solidarity with the crowd gathered at the conference, he wondered where Senator Smith received his information. He went on to note that his group has collected and sent 35,000 books to African countries ravaged by civil war and emphasized that his association does not associate with terrorist organisations.
Alonso Melendez, of MEChA, told the crowd that what his group does is public and that people are welcome to come see what they do. MEChA, he told the crowd, is not a divisive but a unifying organisation that is working to develop better standards of living beyond boundaries. The statements made by Smith, he contends, create a dangerous atmosphere on campus especially for activists. He noted that MEChA supports the Zapatista movement in Chiapas. Some consider the EZLN to be a terrorist organisation. He then wondered if some would also consider MEChA to be a terrorist organisation.
Dimitris Desyllas, of the Rearguard, spoke next and demanded that since Smith claimed his sources were unclassified that he release them to the public. He stated that he could feel Smith's presence on campus, that he's hiding on campus and creating a climate of fear to further his own political career, but that the statements made go to show how unsuited Smith is for his job as Senator.
Susie of the Women's Resource Center spoke next. She echoed the sentiments of the crowd when she said statements such as Smith's lead to fear and violence on campus and that we need a way out of witchhunts and McCarthyism.
Student Body President Mary Cunningham spoke next. She was present at a meeting between the PSU President and the Senator. She felt that Smith's apology was genuine. She was then further harrassed by corporate media who were goading everyone that had spoken into producing sound bite type answers and asked questions like if the students felt scared of terrorist activities on campus.
A further demonstration of the callousness of corporate media presented itself as I was about to leave. I was trying to speak to a man who had spoken up about his experiences as a citizen of North African descent who had been taken into custody when he returned to the states after travelling abroad this summer. Although his nationality is not Moroccan, he was detained because of his parents' nationality (note, I've changed the countries). A reporter had asked him some questions and then asked him if it was OK to identify him as a Spanish Moroccan. He only stared ahead and said, "This is where it all starts."
Conference organisers made it clear that the campus atmosphere is still recovering from 9/11. When asked what effects it has had on campus, an organizer mentioned that students of Middle Eastern descent were about to be illegally questioned by the FBI. Another student mentioned that after Smith's remarks were made public, a man posing as a radio station interviewer asked students at a campus parking lot if they were terrorists.
What was not asked at the conference was which terrorist organisations were Smith referring to? The US Government has expanded its definition of terrorism to possibly include groups such as Earth First and Greenpeace. Could these be the groups Smith was referring to?