portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting oregon & cascadia

actions & protests


Olympia SDS has occupied Evergreen's Vice President's office (as well as the entire top floor and roof of SEM I). The occupation is now going into its second day.

This will be going on for days. Come join us in Olympia!

SDS is extending open invitations to a party today in Art Costantino's office. Plans are in store for a series of live concerts on the roof of the SEM I building today.

The sit-in surrounding the office of Art Costantino, Vice President for Student Affairs at the Evergreen State College (TESC) goes into its second day. There are approximately 20 to 30 students and community supporters at any given time occupying the top floor and roof of the SEM I building on the Olympia campus, with an alternating cast of approximately 50 to 60 people taking shifts, and additional people outside providing support. The sit-in, which was organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), is an attempt by the group and its supporters to draw attention to the diminishing rights of students at TESC and to regain SDS' status as a student organization. The students occupying the hallway surrounding Costantino's office have refused to move until SDS is immediately reinstated as a student group. Costantino has been unable to access his office since the beginning of the sit-in.

The sit-in originated with a rally held on the campus Red Square by SDS yesterday, Wednesday May 21st at 3 PM. The rally was attended by approximately 150 people demanding Free Speech on campus and reinstatement for SDS. Members of SDS and representatives of student and community organizations, including members of the Evergreen Animal Rights Network (EARN), MEChA, CISPES and the Sabot Info-Shoppe spoke out in support of SDS and against the actions taken by TESC administration that are stifling the free political discourse on campus. Speakers discussed the events leading up to SDS' suspension and the ensuing Free Speech battle, detailing their analysis that the suspension was politically motivated; about the history of SDS and the work it has been doing in the community; and impact that the administrations actions to silence one student group will have on all students. These groups also criticized both the administration's cooperation with local law enforcement after February 14th which lead to the arrest of their students and recent actions of police brutality on campus.

Following the speakers, at 3:45 the crowd marched towards the Seminar 1 (SEM I) building, confronting Costantino outside. Marchers chanted "Free Speech Now!" and "Reinstate SDS" while students attempted to voice their concerns to Costantino. After it was clear that Costantino was not interested in hearing demands, the marchers continued upstairs, surrounding his office and announcing their intention to stay until their demand that SDS is fully reinstated is met. The sit-in began with approximately 40 students.

The suspension of SDS was politically motivated and part of a recent trend of silencing political dissent on campus. Foremost responsible for this suppression are the upper-level administrators Phyllis Lane, the Dean of Student and Academic Support Services who initially file the complaint against SDS, and Costantino. The so-called "concert moratorium" that was imposed after the dead prez concert on campus, which was used as justification for the suspension, granted Lane and Costantino the ability to decide which events took place on campus, and thus which members of the student community had a voice, at their discretion.

After some time, Costantino, along with several other administrators, and Ed Sorger, chief of police for the Evergreen Police Department, approached the students occupying the hallway. Students blocked his entry into his office and the surrounding hallway. Costantino was informed that the protesters were very much interested in having a dialogue and beginning negotiations, but that they refused to any dialogue in the presence of armed police officers. Costantino refused to accept the terms for negotiation and eventually left. Before leaving, he informed students of his intention to raise the heat of the building to 150 degrees. Despite his threats, this encounter appears to have been a success for the demonstrators as the next time Costantino approached the demonstration, the following morning, it was in absence of a police escort.

Following the encounter with Costantino and the police, students began to prepare for the long haul. They retrieved food donated by local businesses and began to set up bedding, sleeping bags, and pillows, preparing for what could be several days. The occupation also spread out, encompassing the entire top floor of the SEM I building and its roof. Banners were hung from the roof reading "OCCUPIED" and "REINSTATE SDS."

The sit-in has attracted considerable support from Evergreen alumni. Throughout the day and night, demonstrators were joined by alumni, who told them about their excitement about the events, their experiences with previous sit-ins on campus, and the similar complaints they had had a decade ago when they attended the school, specifically involving conflicts with Art Costantino.

The demonstrators were visited by the Evergreen Police Department throughout the evening and night, generally gathering information and attempting to perform interrogations. These regular encounters went well into the early hours of the morning, denying the demonstrators any prolonged periods of sleep. The police would consistently deprive students of sleep and then attempt to interrogate them in their weary state. Students continued to refuse dialogue with the police.

At 10 AM this morning, Thursday May 22, Costantino, along with three other staff members, returned to dialogue, this time without a police escort. Demonstrators and the administration discussed the reasoning behind the suspension, the events leading up to it, and its political nature. The demonstrators reiterated their demand that SDS be immediately reinstated. Negotiations remain largely at a stand still.

SDS is extending open invitations to a party today in Art Costantino's office. Plans are in store for a series of live concerts on the roof of the SEM I building today.

It is commendable that these students are willing to take action, take a risk, make a sacrifice of their time to protect the freedoms of our community. At the moment, our student communities are under attack, with TESC administration silencing our voices and violating our privacy and the Evergreen and Olympia police brutalizing our bodies. If we allow SDS to be silenced, we are opening the door for everyone in our communities to be silenced. Let's build a movement for student power and more control of our lives. It is up to us to decide our future.

Olympia SDS is requesting that people support us in our struggle.

All Power to the People. Student Power.

-Olympia SDS