Willamette, Salem braces for potential armed protests at capitol
Updated Jan. 19: Campus Safety details added.
The lower windows of Oregon's capitol have been boarded up. Photo by Jake Procino.
The [FBI is expecting armed protests] at every US state capitol between Jan. 16 and Jan. 20, corresponding with the date of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. As of Jan. 17, there have been a few demonstrations, including a [small armed group] who dispersed without incident. The Salem Police Department is still [expecting demonstrations Jan. 19-20], with the demonstrations starting around 9 a.m. to noon. Salem Police encourages residents to avoid the state capitol on Jan. 19 and 20.
President Thorsett announced Jan. 12 in a “Words from Waller” email that Willamette has [extended the number of move-in days] to last from Jan. 19 to Jan. 23 in response to the potential armed demonstrations. Prior to the announcement, Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 were the only move-in days.
Director of Campus Safety Ross Stout said over email, “Campus Safety has been in communication with the Oregon State Police at the Capitol, the Salem Police and the Mid-Valley Threat Advisory Team to learn the latest intelligence about potential protests.” Stout said that Campus Safety has established a plan in response to the potential armed demonstrators and the capitol, and are taking three steps to protect the campus community: “1. Willamette’s campus remains closed to all visitors and there are signs at all entrances to campus that state this. Campus Safety officers will enforce these restrictions. We are hiring contract security staff who will be monitoring the perimeter of campus during any protest at the Capitol. 2. Campus Safety is bringing in officers on overtime and hiring contract security to supplement the regularly-scheduled staff. 3. The university will activate its Emergency Notification System to immediately inform people on campus if there are perceived threats from protesters and encourage them to shelter in place in their buildings until they are notified that the threat has passed.”
Stout added on: “At all times, students should call Campus Safety immediately if they observe concerning situations or people on campus. Call 24 hours a day at 503-370-6911.”
Two Willamette students, Seth Bell (‘23) and Micahel Burke (‘23) have created a [“Move In Buddy Volunteer/Request Form” Google Form] in an effort to keep students safe in groups when they move in. Bell said over message that the form collects the respondent’s move-in information, then matches students into pairs and small groups to safely walk around campus while moving in. Bell said their goal is to, “Help keep our community safe during this potentially dangerous and unfortunately timed event.”
The Oregon State Police (OSP), who have jurisdiction and enforcement responsibility for events at the capitol, have increased law-enforcement activity and are being supported by the Salem Police Department and the Oregon National Guard. [According to the Statesman Journal], OSP vehicles have frequently patrolled the capitol while the Oregon National guard has remained on stand-by. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office are also ready to provide support if needed.
The Oregon State Capitol building itself, meanwhile, has been boarded up with plywood covering the first-floor windows and concrete blocks placed in front of the Capitol.