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ASWU passes statement in solidarity with April 15 protestors

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

Emma Innes

Staff writer

During their last meeting on April 29, the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) unanimously passed a statement in solidarity with the protestors who were outside the Salem Police Department April 15. A man [fired shots] at the protestors but no one was harmed. The suspect was arrested a [few blocks away] from the scene. The statement was written by Senator Inéz Nieves (‘24) with input from the rest of the ASWU Senate.

An earlier version of the statement had been discussed and voted on during the previous meeting on April 22, but was killed by two absentee votes. Statements from ASWU require unanimous votes. Some Senators were disappointed and upset when the statement did not pass, since there was not much discussion on it beforehand.

The statement starts with acknowledging the events of April 15: that 20 protestors were peacefully drawing with chalk when the man drove up in his truck and after yelling at the protestors shot into the air. He ignored police orders before driving away. The statement criticized the Salem police for letting the suspect get away. The impact on the Willamette community and the purpose of the statement were laid out: “Among those protesters were Willamette University students, who had voluntarily committed themselves to the admirable cause of justice for the many lives wrongfully taken by a system of legally enforced racial oppression, and for which we, the Associated Students of Willamette University, declare our solidarity with. In an unequivocal declaration of support for a renewed investigation by the governing Councilors of the City of Salem into the Police Department’s budgetary allocations we, further, call for the sincere consideration of city-wide alternatives to militarized policing.”

ASWU brings up that the Salem Police Department has an annual budget of [$50 million], which they say is more than the combined total of the Emergency Services, Housing Authority, Environmental Stewardship budgets combined. ASWU calls for the reallocation of the budget to community alternatives to militarized policing, saying militarized policing has been proven to be inequitable, repressive and racially discriminatory. ASWU calls on the city council to expand an existing alternative program for Marion county and Polk county, Mobile Crisis Response Teams (MCRTs). [MCRTs] include an officer paired up with a mental health professional to get the individual in crisis they care that they need. Other alternatives ASWU calls for include community specific volunteer based patrol groups, targeted counseling initiatives for homelessness and substance abuse, as well as local restorative justice communities for youths and adults. Community specific volunteer based patrol groups have different names and specifics throughout the country, but are volunteer groups of community members who responded to situations in place of police. Examples provided in the statement are [Community Action Teams] and [Violence Interrupters]. Restorative justice communities focus on first time intervention and reconnecting the offender back with the community. Keizer currently has a [Peer court] system for youths that was linked in the statement.

The statement calls for city officials to heed the calls for racial justice, enlist the expertise of citizens and engage with the citizens demands to move closer to more equitable policing. ASWU then closes: “In honor of the lives lost in this community to senseless police violence and the contributions of those Willamette students present on the night of April 15th, we, the governing members of the Associated Students of Willamette University, demand accountability, transparency, and equity from the Salem Police Department for the greater good of the campus and the broader city community, and actively condemn the racist policing practices currently enforced.”

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