From Walking out to Walking in; inside Benson on September 7th

EDITOR’S NOTE: When Lincoln students arrived at Benson last week to encourage those at the Northeast Portland school to join in their walkout, Lincoln sophomore Yosie Caputi found herself in an unusual situation.  Having arrived late, she observed for a bit and then quietly slipped inside the school, in spite of a police barricade. Here is her recollection:   

When I arrived at Benson, I saw Lincoln students in small clusters on the sidewalk around the school, chanting.

A few hundred feet away, Portland Police guarded the front doors while students inside appeared to be on lockdown. Some leaned out second-floor windows, talking with classmates who were on ground level.

Five minutes after I arrived, people began moving toward the MAX station at Lloyd Center, because the official protest had been declared over. An unofficial protest would continue despite Lincoln student leader Michael Ioffe telling us “Our statement has been made, and the best thing to do is return to Lincoln.”

An announcement was made: “Do not step foot on Benson property, or you will be arrested at once.”

Some protesters who had not heard the announcement began to migrate back to Benson from the MAX station and filled up the lawn.

Immediately they were shooed off, but this broke the fear of being arrested for some. Protestors began drifting up on to the patio near Benson’s front doors.  As I had already worked my way up to the doors, I slipped inside with three other Lincoln students, who told me they were going into get water.

I wanted to see what was going on inside Benson, because earlier it appeared students were at the doors and trying to get out.

Inside was very calm. No one was fighting to join the protest and, in fact, some Benson students seemed quite annoyed with the disruption.

After initially getting water at a fountain, we were approached by a friendly school resource officer. He asked what class we were in.

One of the students stepped up and said we were in biology. He had previously been in summer school at Benson and knew a teacher there, so we were going to go say hi. We walked to the Northeast Corridor and headed up the stairs.

There were only a few students in the halls, the normal wanderers, nothing compared to intensity of the rowdy protesters outside. I passed classroom 228 on the second floor, a room facing away from the protest, and instead of the students covering their heads and hiding under their desks — normal lockdown protocol —  the door was open and the teacher’s lesson plan continued.

We began looking for a side exit, because I was worried that if we went out the front doors, we might get into a confrontation with police.

I don’t know how often SROs walk the hall in Benson, but it seemed like they were around almost every corner and eventually we ran into one.

He stopped us and as I attempted to turn around, he spoke to me.

“What are you doing out of class?”

No answer.

“Do you go to Benson?”

We replied, “No, we go to Lincoln.”

The officer responded, “That’s what I thought.”

At this point, I feared he would arrest us. Instead, we were escorted out of the building and the SRO made it clear that he could call a police officer if we refused to leave.

At this point I departed the protest. There were no students behind the police officers to liberate, because at the time, a majority of Benson did not seem interested in joining Lincoln’s walk-out.

I later learned that about 30 minutes after I left, about 100 Benson students joined the protest walking out the previously locked-down front doors.