June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Day 1: Rep. Rashida Tlaib thanks UO students launching pro-Palestinian encampment

8 min read
Rep. Rashida Tlaib: "We didn't get the Civil Rights Act because of who was president or who was in Congress. They didn't wake up one day and be like, 'Hmm, I think the Civil Rights Act is a great idea.' Or the right to organized unions. It's when workers withheld their labor, right?....I say all this to you to understand the incredible power that you all have to move your country in a direction that you know is a much more beautiful, loving, compassionate future."

UO students established an encampment in support of Palestine on Monday morning by the Lillis Business Complex. KEPW reporter Todd Boyle was on campus when they were joined from Washington D.C. by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

Todd Boyle: So I’m down here at University of Oregon.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib: Thank you guys so much. You guys are beautiful. You’re so incredible, you’re inspiring. You have no idea. I know you get it a lot, but it’s really kick-ass what you all are doing. I just absolutely love it. so much.

[00:00:32] UO students: Thank you so much. Thank you so much for being here, yeah.

[00:00:36] Rep. Rashida Tlaib: No, thank you. So today’s the first day!

[00:00:39] UO students: Yes, day one! Day one. Woo!

[00:00:42] Rep. Rashida Tlaib: I heard 200 people showed up.!

[00:00:43] UO students: Or probably more. Yeah. Yeah. Almost 300. But this is just day one. Yeah. Any words of advice you might have for us? (You guys know, what is it?) Any words of advice or motivation you might have for us?

[00:01:01] Rep. Rashida Tlaib: I mean, I think you, you can’t underestimate the state-funded violence that might come your way, but I think you guys are prepared for it. You’re working with, I hope you’re working with National Lawyers Guild, ACLU and others. These are folks that would be on call, if you need anything at all.

[00:01:23] Even as much as you train yourself and mentally prepare for it, it’s just incredibly awful. But I think, you know, keeping that line of communication with everyone and being transparent, which I love. I’m a bit of a mama bear, you guys. I’m the eldest of 14, so I’m a little overly protective.

[00:01:39] So, I always look on University of Michigan’s Instagram page to see what the program today is. And I love that they do it that way. I think a lot of encampments are doing it that way. Like, yesterday was, like, a fun day for kids. They did a program on the Armenian genocide and the Palestinian Nakba, I thought that was very powerful. I mean, I’m sure you all know Mohamed and everybody that is involved in putting this together. You know, just, I love that folks get to feel a sense of connection with what you all are doing with some of the more public programming, as you all come together.

[00:02:20] Look, I said this to one of the university presidents: I used to literally protest Congressman Dingell. Congressman Dingell. Yeah, yeah. Now I’m a congressperson. So I said, you know, ‘Understand the reality of that time. Many of us were fighting for so many issues around poverty, affirmative action.’

[00:02:44] I mean, I just remember being young and just thinking, ‘Oh my god, like, what can I…?’, feeling this tremendous amount of helplessness.

[00:02:52] Just know this, and I hope you know this because you guys are way smarter than I was at this age: And that we didn’t get the Civil Rights Act because of who was president or who was in Congress. Like, they didn’t wake up one day and be like, ‘Hmm, I think Civil Rights Act is a great idea.’ Or the right to organized unions. It’s when workers withheld their labor, right? That’s when they’re like, ‘We’re not going back to work until we have human dignity in the workplace.’

[00:03:19] When you think of bus boycotts, sit-ins, you know, this is literally tools that were used to build these coalitions all around the country to say ‘Civil Rights Act Now!’… because the courts and so many other things have watered it down, because implementation matters, as you know, we’re continuing to fight for movement for Black lives.

[00:03:38] And so I say all this to you to understand the incredible power that you all have to move your country in a direction that you know is a much more beautiful, loving, compassionate future. And so just know the incredible role that you play.

[00:03:55] I’m here in Congress and, you know, those that are in power are pushing, pushing, pushing on us. I mean, just redefining what antisemitism is; trying to silence, different kinds of voices like myself and so many others in Congress with censures.

[00:04:11] And so, even all of that happening here, my mere existence is resistance. As you—something I always feel, your mere existence of standing up, of this different array of beautiful faiths and backgrounds, and if you go, all of you come from different parts of the country, you’re coming together saying, ‘Not now, not ever will we stand silent.’

[00:04:34] And your movement existed before the genocide began in Gaza. You were talking about these issues for a long time, and it just became much more prevalent, much more urgency than it ever has, because of what we’re witnessing live right now, in Gaza.

[00:04:53] And so thank you. Thank you on behalf of, so many people that can’t be there with you. Know that from afar, you have no idea how many of my residents are like, ‘Those kids!’ Yeah, they call you kids, I know you don’t think of yourself that way. They’re like, ‘Those kids!’ you know, and they’re like, ‘We need to protect them.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God, the pressure.’

[00:05:14] And I said, of course, you know. You know, we did an event for our ACLU Michigan folks yesterday and just trying to support them as much as we can, as they continue to talk about de-escalation, pushing back against those that think that somehow your First Amendment right stops when you enter campus. That is absolutely not accurate.

[00:05:35] So thank you here from Washington, D.C., from the capital, from Congress. Thank you. Thank you. I needed this much more than you all did. We’ve been gone for a week, and this is my first day back and walking on the House floor. And sometimes I wear my keffiyeh specifically to give me strength, and I love how they kind of like stare at it.

[00:05:59] So thank you all so much again. Thank you for allowing me to be in space with all of you. Please be safe. I know this group, but be safe with each other. You guys have each other’s back.

[00:06:11] And yeah, just, you stay in control of this movement. Don’t—do not dare let people from—including myself, anybody from the outside in, to try to, and even if they’re well-intended, your voice matters and this is your voice. And, you know, I know I’m constantly policed and told to do this and do that. That is not helpful.

[00:06:37] And so again, I’m here to tell you all, I love you. Thank you for this. Just know the incredible power that you all have, to, again, move our country in the right direction. So, thank you all so much. Thank you, thank you.

[00:06:49] UO students: Thank you so much! We love you! As-salamu alaykum. As-salamu alaykum. Take care. Take care everyone. (cheering)

[00:07:12] UO student (requested anonymity): Hello, excuse me, hi. Are you from a media outlet? (KEPW). Oh, hello, yes. If you’re looking for interviews, we have a media site up there. People with red hats over the top. A lot of our quotes in the media have been misconstrued, so we’ve been careful about who’s interviewing.

[00:07:38] Todd Boyle: So there’s like a media stand over there?

[00:07:40] UO student (requested anonymity): Yeah, so for, actions, it’s pretty common to have a role called ‘media liaison.’ And that’s a person who is prepared to speak with media, because it can be nerve-wracking and stuff like that.

[00:07:54] Todd Boyle: I know, it’s hard to do talking points.

[00:07:55] UO student (requested anonymity): Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we have some people that are trained for that.

[00:08:01] Todd Boyle: And, this is the media tent for the encampment for the support of Palestinians. Is that pretty much it? So here it is.

[00:08:09] UO student media liaison (requested anonymity): Hi, we started an encampment as of this morning in solidarity with the dozens of other universities around the country and around the world at this point, starting encampments to try and end the genocide of Gaza and the Palestinians more broadly.

[00:08:24] Our specific demands pertain to the University of Oregon as we are students and have the most leverage here. We want them to divest from the war-profiteering companies like Boeing, HP, Amazon, Dell, Sabra, everyone who’s been sending military aid to the Israeli government. Everyone who’s profiting off of this war, we would prefer if they could divest from them and we’re prepared to pressure them into doing so.

[00:08:54] We demand a statement affirming U of O’s support for a cease-fire in Gaza.

[00:08:59] Todd Boyle: And so when they come and clear this camp, you know, I’m going to come down here and burn my diploma right out here in this quadrangle.

[00:09:05] UO student media liaison (requested anonymity): That’s a powerful statement. (Thanks, man.) Yeah, of course.

[00:09:09] Todd Boyle: I’m glad you guys are doing this. (Me too.) You’re doing the right stuff.

[00:09:13] UO student media liaison (requested anonymity): Doing our best out here.

[00:09:14] John Q: On Monday, expanding on his idea that Ducks should burn their UO diplomas:

[00:09:19] Todd Boyle: It’s so amazing to see this huge encampment of at least 100 tents here right across the street from the business school where I graduated in 1978. And what I’m recommending is that all University of Oregon alums who have a conscience of what’s been going on in this country—I mean, just think of all the stuff that we’ve done.

[00:09:47] And so I think we should set a date and just go down there in front of Gilbert Hall which has now been renamed as Phil Knight Business Center or something, whatever the thing is. This is like Biff’s timeline in that movie Back to the Future. I came back to Eugene, and Biff’s timeline was replaced where I went to college.

[00:10:10] So anyway, seriously, we have all these students out here who are giving up the hours and days of their lives to make a stand against the brutality of the state of Israel against the Palestinians. Because you know, this breaks the feeling of the whole. It breaks our common humanity. And this, this can’t go on like this, you know? I think these students are quite admirable, and they’re doing the right thing, and I told many of them this. I gave them some supplies and some stuff, but really, I think I need to do more than that.

[00:10:51] John Q: Todd suggested that if the encampment is removed by force, he and fellow Ducks should assemble at the scene and burn their diplomas.

[00:10:59] Todd Boyle: I think University of Oregon alums, come down there and burn your diploma, you know, that’s what I think. I really do.

[00:11:07] John Q: Todd Boyle on the scene Monday as UO students establish a liberated zone on campus and speak with Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

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