Adjunct Fired and Arrested

Adjunct at the University of Oregon who was filmed in altercation with student during a demonstration loses his job and is arrested.

March 18, 2013

The University of Oregon has fired an adjunct law instructor, James L. Olmsted, after an altercation Thursday where Olmsted butted heads with members of the Students Against Imperialism, a pro-immigration organization. He was also arrested and charged with second-degree theft and two counts of physical intimidation.

The student organization had erected a mock border control to raise awareness about immigration policies. In video footage of the incident posted on YouTube, Olmsted is seen criticizing the impact of the students’ protest, pushing one student and grabbing the cell phone of another. (The footage of the incident linked to above and embedded below, as well as quotes that follow, contain profanity.)

“If you want this country back, start a fucking war and take it back,” Olmsted says. “To make something happen, you need lots of people to do an action and get hurt.”

“You’re in no point to tell us how to liberate ourselves,” a student responds.

After a student steps between Olmsted and the members of Students Against Imperialism to break up the argument, Olmsted pushes him, saying, “Get away from my space, you prick!” He later appears to egg the student on, challenging him to “do something.”

As students begin filming the situation with their cell phones, Olmsted asks a student off-camera what she intends to do with the footage.

“I’ll do whatever I want to do,” the student says. Olmsted then grabs the phone out of her hands.

“This is public property!” a student is heard shouting as Olmsted pockets the cell phone.

“This is my public property too,” Olmsted responds.

A second video, shot by the phone in question, captures the audio immediately following that exchange. Olmsted is heard arguing the merits of the demonstration and his reason for taking the phone, which he ends up returning to its owner. 

Olmsted, a lawyer who specializes in land use, zoning and real estate law, has been an adjunct instructor at Oregon since Nov. 2011, according to his LinkedIn profile page. He did not respond to a request to comment Friday.

The Students Against Imperialism announced its formation Thursday in a letter to The Daily Emerald, an independent newspaper at Oregon, and was created to “challenge imperialism where the United States is the world’s leading colonial power.” Before merging with students concerned about the US-Mexico border situation, the organization was known as Students for Palestinian Liberation.

The letter is signed by Diana Salazar, which is also the name of the user who uploaded one of the videos of the incident. The connection could not be confirmed Friday. Members of the organization did not respond to a request to comment Friday.

Adell Amos, associate dean for academic affairs, will assume Olmsted’s teaching duties, according to Phil Weiler, a spokesman for the university, who declined to comment further on what he described as a personnel decision.

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