PSU activists won't be intimidated

Christopher Zimmerly-Beck reports on an attempt by a right-wing blogger to disrupt an ISO meeting at Portland State University--and how the attendees pushed back.

Portland State University (StateUniversity.com)Portland State University (StateUniversity.com)

ON JUNE 12, Dan Sandini--a right-wing activist, blogger and devoted Glenn Beck fan--disrupted a public meeting hosted by the International Socialist Organization (ISO) student club at Portland State University, with the intent to shut down the meeting.

Sandini is well known in Portland for targeting progressive and radical activists, frequently singling out women and people of color for particular abuse. His blog, titled Daylight Disinfectant, is used primarily to post personal information about activists, unions and political organizations.

In Sandini's more outrageous moments, he is said to have gone as far as stalking and harassing activists. Local activists say he contacted the supervisor of one person to out him as a socialist at his workplace.

The meeting that Sandini hoped to ruin was a talk on engineering and architecture under capitalism, which was being given by a local activist and engineer who refused to speak as long as he was in the room and recording the talk with his video camera.

In spite of Sandini's well-known record of harassment, campus security was unwilling to make Sandini leave. Officers seemed afraid to address the situation and decided that Sandini was exercising his right of free speech by interrupting and recording the meeting. This decision to support a white, male right winger over the interests of the students in attendance at a university event--many of whom were female and people of color--stands out as an example of Portland State's unwillingness to provide a safe space.

Realizing that campus security was siding with Sandini over the rights of everyone else in the room, an attendee at the meeting named Shondra encouraged people to stand in a circle around Sandini to demonstrate that we wouldn't be bullied. Sandini retreated to the back of the classroom and tried to shove his way through the crowd of students and community members, going so far as to push a person recovering from back surgery. Still, campus security refused to make him leave.

Later, when asked why she thought people should stand up to Sandini, Shondra said, "As a woman, I can't worry about them hurting me. We've got to keep moving and pushing. You can be afraid and still fight."

Eventually, the event organizers, attendees and guest speaker decided to lead a march to a local establishment where the rights of a right-wing fanatic like Sandini wouldn't be prioritized over those of the university's student body.

That one right-winger was able to cause such a large disruption at Portland State is inexcusable. Chris Lowe, a community member who witnessed campus security's handling of the situation, said, "Portland State has a responsibility to stand up for the rights of student groups to hold events and meetings in a safe atmosphere."

Sandini is more than just a nuisance--his willingness to single out and harass members of the left puts every activist in danger and ultimately emboldens others like him to come out into the open. The only way to beat him is through solidarity. As activists, we have a responsibility to stand up to Sandini's brand of behavior.

While those like Sandini turn to intimidation in the name of defending the indefensible, those of us committed to building an alternative need to join together and challenge them whenever they appear.