Portland State University protests: What to know about the activity on campus

By Meagan Cuthill (OPB) and OPB staff
May 1, 2024 9:17 p.m. Updated: May 2, 2024 1:04 p.m.
A tour inside the occupied Branford Price Millar Library at Portland State University, April 30, 2024. Demonstrators protesting the war in Gaza have occupied the library since Monday evening.

A tour inside the occupied Branford Price Millar Library at Portland State University, April 30, 2024. Demonstrators protesting the war in Gaza have occupied the library since Monday evening.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Protests against the war in Gaza are taking place across many college campuses nationally – including at Portland State University. Here’s a breakdown of the past week at the school.


What is going on?

Based on messaging shared by an Instagram account associated with the protest activity and interviews with people present at the campus, crowds that have gathered at Portland State are demonstrating for an end to the war in Gaza, which began nearly seven months ago between Israel and Hamas, and for PSU to divest from Israeli businesses and U.S. companies that supply equipment used by Israel in its military actions.

Palestinian flags and signage with anti-war messaging such as “Free Gaza” have been consistently seen at the campus.

Who are the players?

  • Dozens of protesters, who appear to be a mix of PSU students and community members, have gathered at the PSU campus and as of Monday night have stationed themselves in the university’s library.
  • PSU President Ann Cudd, who has issued statements to students and the wider PSU community. She has repeated her support of free speech while drawing the line at damage to school property.
  • The Portland Police Bureau, which hasn’t responded to disperse protesters since Thursday night. The bureau has been mostly hands-off over the past week up to Wednesday afternoon.
  • Portland city government leaders, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, have spoken against continued protesting on the campus.

A timeline of the past week at PSU

Thursday, April 25

A small group of protesters, some of whom were holding anti-Boeing signs, set up tents and barricades on Portland State University’s South Park Blocks on the night of April 25.

Portland State has no investments in Boeing, but does accept philanthropic gifts, according to Cudd.

After a few hours in the park, the protesters were moved from the area by Portland police officers, though no arrests were made.

Friday, April 26

Two main things happened after the dispersal of the demonstrators on April 25.

  1. PSU announced it will pause any connection it has to Boeing.
  2. Warnings went out.

Portland police put out a statement the morning of April 26 that anybody occupying a closed park, engaging in violent activity or destroying property could be arrested.

Separately, Cudd also released a statement, which addressed concerns about how PSU responds to individuals engaged in protests. She said nobody involved in any protest has been sanctioned for the content of their message.

But, she added, the school draws a line between protecting free speech and “activities including discrimination, harassment, intimidation, property damage and assault.”

Saturday, April 27

An Instagram post laid out 13 demands that demonstrators had for PSU, including the university issuing a public condemnation of Israel.

Sunday, April 28


Protesters barricaded off an entrance to the university’s Branford Price Millar Library using orange construction fencing, garbage cans and other debris. They also erected signs declaring the library a “liberated zone.”

Hundreds of people attend a pro-Palestinian protest on Portland State University's campus on Monday, April 29, 2024.

Hundreds of people attend a pro-Palestinian protest on Portland State University's campus on Monday, April 29, 2024.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Monday, April 29

According to PSU spokesperson Katy Swordfisk, “the encampment [grew over the weekend] and has resulted in greater property damage and intimidation” and school officials asked protesters to leave campus on Monday and cited safety concerns.

Throughout Monday, a few dozen protesters instead barricaded the front steps of the library in addition to the entrance they had blocked the day before.

In a late-night press conference, Cudd and Portland officials, including Wheeler, Police Chief Bob Day and Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, said they no longer considered this a peaceful protest. They sent a message to protesters in the library: Leave now or face possible criminal charges.

Tuesday, April 30

No authorities came to the library overnight. With the continued occupation of the library by protesters, PSU announced the campus was closed Tuesday.

By Tuesday afternoon, Cudd sent a message to university staff and students, imploring protesters to move out of the building before police forcibly remove them.

Again, neither campus security nor city officers intervened.

Wednesday, May 1

Negotiations between Portland State and protesters over ending the library occupation came to a head early Wednesday morning and combusted. Cudd released a statement saying that negotiators for the student demonstrators had verbally agreed around midnight that they would sign a memorandum and leave the library by 1:30 a.m.

“In exchange, we offered to guarantee no expulsion, suspension or change to their status and that the university would not file criminal charges,” Cudd’s statement said.

According to Cudd, the verbal agreement of terms was not sealed, since students chose not to sign a memo. She also stated about 50 students left the protest of their own accord.

In response, the protest-associated Instagram account called Cudd “a repulsive liar” and went on to counter several of her stated points about terms, including her statement that students agreeing to sign a deal.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the standstill continued between protesters and PSU. Just before 3 p.m., the university’s X account (formerly Twitter) doubled down that the protesters should leave the library, stating anyone inside was trespassing.

In a message to faculty, staff and students late Wednesday afternoon, Portland State officials announced that campus would reopen Thursday.

“It is critically important to return to the university’s mission of educating our students, despite the ongoing protest at the Branford Price Millar Library,” the announcement from President Cudd said. The message went on to say that students who “feel uncomfortable coming to campus” for in-person classes should contact their instructors.

Cudd’s message concluded with an attempt to clarify the “status of Millar Library.”

“The library is closed,” Cudd said. “No one is authorized to be in the library. This includes all PSU faculty, staff and students. Anyone still in the library is committing criminal trespass, and must leave immediately.”

Outside of PSU, protests have also been reported at the University of Oregon, Reed College and Lewis & Clark College in the past week.

The PSU campus remained closed.