Andrew Oswalt returned to his position as a representative in OSU’s student government for Wednesday, Jan 24’s session of the legislative body. Oswalt was arrested for criminal mischief two days earlier, he is accused of attaching racist bumper stickers onto the cars of two racial justice activists in the First Alternative Natural Foods Co-Op parking lot. According to the Corvallis Police, the stickers read “Racism is a horrible disease. You catch it from niggers.”
Wednesday’s ASOSU session was dedicated to discussing student fee recommendations, but the Oswalt issue overshadowed what would normally be a mundane session for the congress. Police held strategic points throughout the Memorial Union Ballroom, anticipating unrest.
As Oswalt entered the room, he was overheard complaining about how he was libeled by Portland publication The Oregonian; he would continue to mention the subject of libel on the floor of the congress.
At the beginning of the session, House Speaker Peter Halajian explained that there would be no off-topic comments tolerated. It was also stated that a petition signed by 15 percent of the student body had been submitted, calling for the recall of Representative Oswalt. All business relating to this recall would be handled at next week’s session. The date and time of next week’s session was not present on the ASOSU calendar at press time.
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One of the items on the session’s docket was a funding increase for The Orange Media Network, whose subsidiary The Daily Barometer initially exposed Oswalt for his white supremacism. When the floor opened for comments from representatives, Oswalt claimed to have “personal experience being libeled by their editorial staff,” and lamented a fee increase for the network.
Oswalt took the floor, unimpeded, many times throughout the proceedings, to add hit two cents to the various docket items. During the representative comment section to increase the budget of OSU’s Student Leadership and Involvement Program, he referred to the program as “partisan,” saying “Social justice contains elements of partisanship” He also proclaimed that “Equity sounds like communism to me.”
During the proceedings, a group of students, mostly young women dressed in black, had amassed in the rear section of the ballroom. When the subject turned to a budget increase for the Diversity and Cultural Engagement program, the large group approached the floor for the public comment section.
A young woman stood at the microphone and spoke for the group. She began to castigate Oswalt for his white supremacist views, and her mic was promptly cut off. She continued to speak, raising her voice so it echoed throughout the ballroom. Speaker of the House, Peter Halajian, then instructed that she and her comrades be removed from the session.
The State Police approached the group and peacefully escorted them from the room. As they were removed, they chanted: “Our existence is resistance!”
Students continued to approach the microphone for public comment, chiding Halajian for removing the group of concerned students. One young man explained that the legislative body could actually override the Speaker’s decision and allow the group to speak. The representatives then called for a recess.
After the recess, it was announced that gallery comments would be allowed once the business of the day was concluded. Shortly after that, the young women in black were gathering in the back again, and more had joined them.
Among those who spoke was a young man who brought some interesting accusations to light. Oswalt is accused of using the handle “DatGoy” on a white supremacist thread on Discord, a chat app intended for gaming that has been co-opted by Pacific Northwest fascists. “DatGoy” is a member of Springfield resident and hitler-mobile pilot Jimmy Marr’s band of merry nazis, and a participant in various fascist activities in the area such as propaganda distribution and holocaust denial events. Photos have been taken of Oswalt at white supremacist Patriot Prayer events in Portland.
The young woman who was originally silenced gave her entire speech. She spoke of the dangers of tolerating white nationalism.
“To be a bigot is to live in a constant space of mental violence to others and to oneself.” She explained. “To protect the freedom of bigots to advocate and oversee policy is to actively silence the voices of those who they want to marginalize. To tolerate the ideology of the alt-right is the active stripping of free speech from non-white individuals, because all expressions of hate are necessarily accompanied by the threat of violence.”