An adjunct law professor at the University of Oregon was arrested, charged and was fired from his post after an incident with a group of students hosting a pro-immigration demonstration on campus last week.
Video of the incident that occurred Thursday captures professor James Olmsted egging on students at a demonstration that featured a mock border patrol held by the newly formed group Students Against Imperialism. Here’s a shorter version of what happened (content warning: strong language):
Based on the videos uploaded to YouTube, it is unclear exactly how the altercation started. At the beginning the video showing the conflict, it appears that Olmsted is talking with a demonstrator about the colonization of America.
“But your colonization was much more sinister,” one of the demonstrators said back at him.
“If you want this country back, start a f***ing war and take it back,” Olmsted said. “Start a war. Get a gun. Shoot me first. I’m right here.”
“That’s not how we have to do things,” another said. “It’s time for us to do things differently, man.”
“To make something happen,” Olmsted continued, “you need lots of people to do an action and get hurt. …This is nice but it’s really small.”
At this point, Olmsted, who specializes in land trusts and conservation easement law, steps closer to a female filming (off camera) unzips and takes off his jacket. She says, “I’m feeling very threatened right now,” and at this point a tall, backpack-wearing student steps in.
Olmsted pushes and curses at the man, accusing him of being in his space. At one point, Olmsted also removes his glasses and puts them on the ground and even pushes the tall man while going chest-to-chest with him.
He later takes and pockets the phone of a young woman filming the scene.
Still, its unclear exactly what Olmsted was upset about or where he falls regarding the group’s larger position. For example, in the video you eventually hear who is presumed to be Olmsted (the camera is in his pocket at this point) saying, “I am part of your performance. You need a protagonist. … You’d be surprised about how much I’m on your side.” He calls his performance a “caricature of what I am.”
Here’s the most comprehensive video of the altercation but around 2:15 the camera gets shoved into Olmsted’s pocket. It goes dark at that point but audio keeps running (content warning: strong language):
According to the school’s newspaper, the Daily Emerald, Olmsted was arrested by the university’s police department. Here’s the statement from police regarding the incident:
“He (Olmsted) was cited in lieu of custody for second-degree theft and two counts of physical harassment. Olmsted was escorted off campus and issued a letter forbidding his return. An investigation is ongoing and other charges may be pending.”
Inside Higher Ed reported the university saying Olmsted was fired and that the associate dean for academic affairs, Adell Amos, would be taking on his classes.
Students Against Imperialism, according to a letter in the Daily Emerald, combined Students for the Palestinian Liberation with other students advocating for changes as they pertain to the Mexican/U.S. border relations and immigration.
“The US imperial attitudes on the border with Mexico and in Israel/Palestine are examples of racial and imperial conflicts, with gendered and class implications,” students Diana Salazar and Cims Gillespie wrote in the letter. ”We must dislocate these power relations to live in a more just and equitable society.”
Students with the group spoke to the Daily Emerald in an article posted Monday about the incident:
“We were prepared for having people who were not going to agree with us,” [Jackie] Salgado said. “We never expected anyone to come up to the group and be so blatantly racist.”
“We were prepared for having people who were not going to agree with us,” Salgado said. “We never expected anyone to come up to the group and be so blatantly racist.”
Students began recording when the situation escalated. According to Salazar, Olmsted began making radical racist statements, saying he wanted to nuke the Middle East and telling students to start a war if they wanted change.
There’s more on Olmsted’s professional background here.