Protesters Trashed the Portland State University Library So Badly It Will Remain Closed Until the Fall

News & Politics

Barbarians throughout history have destroyed symbols of culture and learning. During the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410, priceless artifacts and works of art were carried off or destroyed.


More recently, when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, they blew up the culturally valuable Buddha sculptures Salsal and Shahmama after declaring them to be “un-Islamic.”

The Portland State University Library is not Rome nor is it “culturally significant.” But the same animating desire to destroy valuable things moved the anti-Israel protesters who occupied the library for three days to totally trash the building.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” a facilities manager at Portland State University said Thursday as he examined the destruction.

“WELCOME TO THE REFAAT ALAREER MEMORIAL LIBRARY, read a sign hanging over the mural that welcomes visitors to the library. The reference is to a noted Palestinian poet who died last December after an Israeli attack.

Oregon Live:

The library’s ground floor was splattered with orange, red and yellow paint, with empty water bottles strewn about.

File cabinets and other furniture blocked elevator doors.

Glass-covered displays were smashed.

The white-walled stairwells were covered with red paint showing an arrow up to a makeshift medic station on the second floor amid anarchist symbols of an “A” written inside a circle and messages including “BURN YER HOMEWORK” and “CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE DOESN’T MAKE US CRIMINALS.”


Destruction of property is not “civil disobedience.” Breaking windows and display cases is not “civil disobedience.” 

Any fifth-grade Catholic school kid could have told the ignorant sign maker that “civil disobedience” is not only about disobeying an unjust law. It’s also about accepting responsibility for the illegal act and taking whatever punishment is handed down. Thus is the rule of law maintained and the protest against an unjust law upheld.

Some rare manuscripts were stolen, according to the university. The damage is so extensive that the library will be closed until next September.


Occupiers also left behind tents, pillows, blankets and large supplies of toiletries, food and water, suggesting that they could have remained inside the building for an extended amount of time. The protesters went as far as to mark off specific areas of the building for various needs, the video shows. Signs for a “lounge area,” “medic,” “safe rest space” and “bathroom” were labeled throughout the library. 

Stacks of wooden pallets, traffic barriers and other building materials also lined the building’s entryways. It’s unclear how much it will cost or how long it will take to clean the public library. According to the PPB Bike Squad Instagram page, cleanup crews were already working to clear some of the debris Thursday afternoon. The campus remains closed.


“I wish when a protest is happening people didn’t feel licensed to cause damage to something that doesn’t have anything to do with what is being protested,” said Christina Osborn, a PSU senior. “I feel personally violated because damage was done to this place that I use very frequently as a resource.”

Osborn lamented that, since she’s a senior, she won’t be able to use the library anymore.

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