A University of Oregon instructor has been arrested by police, charged with several crimes and barred from campus in relation to an incident in which he allegedly violently assaulted students on campus and stole the phone of one who was documenting what happened.
The incident occurred outside the student union building on the Eugene, Oregon campus on 14 March at a mock checkpoint the students had set up to highlight similarities between the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and people at the heavily-militarized US-Mexico border.
The campus newspaper Daily Emerald has named the suspect as University of Oregon adjunct law instructor James Olmsted.
Instructor arrested, charged and barred from campus
Phil Weiler, Assistant Vice President for Strategic Communications at the university, confirmed to The Electronic Intifada in a telephone call that the law school “has reassigned teaching responsibilities for adjunct instructor James Olmsted” to another member of faculty. Weiler added, “This is a personnel decision and we are unable to discuss details of the situation at this time.”
Weiler confirmed that university police had been called to the scene, and later followed up with an email providing details about the charges Olmsted is facing:
James L. Olmsted, 58, of Eugene, was arrested by University of Oregon Police on Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 2:41 p.m. at the Erb Memorial Union, near 13th Avenue and University Street on the UO campus.
Mr. 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.
Asked if any students would be charged in the incident, Weiler told The Electronic Intifada, “Absolutely not. The students were victims in this situation.” Weiler said university administrators had been “reaching out” to students involved in the incident to ensure that they were receiving appropriate support.
Assailant called for violence before he violently attacked students, videos show
The mock checkpoint was an activity of Students Against Imperialism, a campus group “in support of equitable treatment along the United States-Mexican border which recently combine[d] with the group Students for Palestinian Liberation,” according to the Daily Emerald.
The video above shows Olmsted, wearing a leather jacket, arguing with the students, and becoming progressively more belligerent and using profanity. “If you want this country back, start a fucking war and take it back,” Olmsted says. When one student answers, “that’s not how we have to do things,” Olmsted continues to provoke, answering, “Start a war, get a gun, shoot me first!”
Olmsted then begins to lecture the students that if they want to see change, they have to “get hurt.” A woman responds: “you’re in no point to tell us how to fucking liberate ourselves. You’re the oppressor!”
Olmsted then removes his jacket, as if preparing to fight. Another woman reacts, “This is an aggressive tone. I’m feeling pretty threatened right now.”
The video shows a male student intervening between Olmsted and the women. Olmsted accuses the male student of touching him and violently shoves the student back while becoming more belligerent, and shouting “get away from my space, you prick” while goading the student to attack him.
Olmsted then approaches the woman Jaki Salgado who is shooting the video and demands to know why she is “photographing” the incident and what she plans to do with it.
The male student, while calling for de-escalation, tries to step between Olmsted and the videographer, but Olmsted lunges at Salgado and seizes the camera phone and places it in the back pocket of his jeans.
The video recorder continues to run, capturing audio – from inside Olmsted’s pocket – as voices are heard attempting to reason with Olmsted and convince him to return the camera. A voice also asks if police have been called. Salgado told a local TV station that Olmsted did not return her phone until after police were on the scene.
Olmsted’s attack on the woman and the seizure of her phone was captured in two other brief videos: