Oregon Professor Relieved Of Teaching Duties After Bizarre Confrontation With Students

olmstead19n-6-webAn Adjunct Law Professor from the University of Oregon has been removed from teaching responsibilities after a confrontation with students that was partially filmed. James Olmsted had a confrontation with students protesting immigration policies on March 14th in which he and students exchange foul language and at one point Olmsted advises them to “start a war, get a gun, shoot me first.”

olmstead19n-2-webBoth sides are shown getting increasingly irate and the videocamera is turned on and off at points. At one point, Olmstead is shown shoving a man and saying “Get away from my space, you prick.” At one point, Olmstead says “I’m part of your performance. You need a protagonist.”

Apparently not. Olmstead, 58, was arrested after the outburst and charged with theft, harassment and intimidation. I am a bit uneasy with the intimidation and harassment charges in a protest situation since Olmstead was exercising his free speech rights. However, he does shove students and grab at the camera when the students are in their rights to film him. Olmstead is shown yelling “If you want this country back, start a f— war and take it back.” I would have still preferred for police to diffuse the situation without criminal charges. However, the theft charge relates to the taking of a cellphone and it is not clear if this was returned or retained by Olmstead.

Olmstead is clearly out of line in his tone and language and physical conduct. The students overall sound much more reasoned and Olmstead himself seems to fluctuate between reason and rage.

Olmstead is a law graduate from the University of California at Davis and is admitted to practice law in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. He taught land-use in the university’s School of Law Environmental and Natural Resources.

Source: ABA Journal

54 thoughts on “Oregon Professor Relieved Of Teaching Duties After Bizarre Confrontation With Students

  1. Anarchy and civil unrest are just a heartbeat away and this government knows it…. Civil disobedience does not work since Obama has been implicated in sending agents in to OWS…..

  2. Listening to his words in the early stages, he appears to encouraging people to gather more people, take up arms and start shooting people.
    Next thing you know, he’ll be encouraging them to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre.

    Apart from that he’s quite boring.

    Adults these days! Sheeeesh 😦

  3. Yawn. Oregon? Is that where they grow tall corn? Oh, Iowa. What does he wish to protest? The War in Afghanistan? The War On Drugs? The War On Scientology? So, he is suspended from teaching duties. Those who can, do. Those who cant, teach. Those who cant teach, teach teachers. He has no where to go. I would advise him to Go West but if he did he would be in the Pacific. Next topic!

  4. Have you ever had a camera shoved in your face recording your every breath? Well I have. From the video, both parties look to be in the wrong. THe tall guy DID get in the prof’s face and one of the young ladies was poking the prof. While don’t agree with the profs viewpoint–I DO believe these student were intending to provoke a problem. THe tea party does the same thing and having a camera shoved in your face when you are a private citizen for a prolonged time period IS out of line. While I sympathize with the students’ cause–I do take exception with the physical way THEY started a fight. I’ve had tea bagger shove a camera in my face so close you could count every pore in my face.. THAT is an intrusion. These students are in the wrong and cheapening their cause with this immature strategy.

  5. What a slime bag. While he is entitled to his opinion, I am amazed he is not in jail. He is the one that escalated this into a confrontation. I don’t know what video you are watching Jeanine, but the camera is not in his face. The protestor has the right to film him. The only intrusion is this hard ass. The students were not the immature ones.

  6. That was just weird. The prof is clearly the aggressor here. But, it seems like he was sympathetic to their views and only wanted to push them to be more aggressive in their protests. Then, once he found out his being an ass was caught on film, his performance flipped and he truly became worried about it being shown which led him to become more physically aggressive. Kinda a shame to see criminal charges pressed over this.

  7. I rewatched, and am now totally convinced that this guy’s politics are to the far left. At 0:20, he says “I’m the dominant paradigm.” Environmental Professor at Oregon and using jargon like that surely marks him as a far left intellectual.

    Also, not sure what video Jeneane is watching. The first physical contact I see is the professor pushing the big guy away. Admittedly, the big guy gets right up in his space, but that’s only after the prof aggressively approaches one of the other protestors. The big guy is remarkably calm throughout the video

  8. Actually unless you are a ‘public’ personage–there is NOT an inherent right to film someone’s every move. It IS an intrusion. I have been filmed that way by the tea baggers, just for standing in a crowd and I did block the camera with my hand. Unless you have had that experience EVERY time you attend a meeting–you cannot possibly understand the problem. These same tea baggers would cut and splice ANYTHING you have said and make it look like you made an outrageous statement that you never did. The prof here is vile, but the students (especially the tall one) DID get in his space early on. No one has the right to block your way on a public space. Both parties were in the wrong. Now, filming public figures such as politicians or cops–is permissible when they are performing public duties. You know, it’s easy to be part of the peanut gallery when you aren’t the one being assaulted with a camera. I’m just saying that both parties were in the wrong. If someone blocks your way and is literally an inch away from your personal space you have a right to demand they move. THe students cheapened their own argument by this immature behavior. PS: it was in the beginning of the video.

  9. Not defending the prof, but he may have been very aware of how film can be ‘doctored’ to malign the person being filmed through splicing the sample. Some of the ‘non-violent’ tactics such as blocking someone’s path IS interpreted by some groups as aggressive–especially if the person blocking the path is taller and larger.

  10. Look at the film at the point of 1:19 to 1:20 the tall guy clearly put his hands on the prof, then the prof reacted. Just before that–the girl stated she felt that the prof was using a threatening tone–and that she felt threatened, yet the prof had not done anything other than act a bit ignorant. As I said, both sides were in the wrong. We should not be using the same illegitimate tactics as the tea baggers.

  11. I will admit that the prof became aggressive but only after that big guy placed his hands on him. Even though you say the big guy was calm’–I interpret the blocking as aggressive

  12. I will agree that there was probable cause to arrest the professor. I haven’t the time right now to review Oregon’s statutes but harassment might apply in this case if that state codifies it. In WA he could be charged with Disorderly Conduct for his actions which include “using abusive language and creating a risk of an assault taking place” and for “disrupting a lawful assembly” and for the 4th degree assault and the theft (which would have been the weakest charge here).

    For the tall man’s intervention, I opin he was justified in doing so because the actions of the professor indicated a likelihood he would have assaulted others and the other is permitted to intervene with reasonable force to protect the person. I believe the tall man’s actions were reasonable for this.

    Based upon this I view the college’s administrative actions were warranted. The use of force and threats against students engaging in a peaceful demonstration to voice their grievances is unacceptable and risked putting the university into a liability position.

  13. As a small woman of 5’3″ I would have felt threatened by the tall man. If you have never been surrounded by people and filmed like this, you cannot imagine how irritating it is. Watch the BEGINNING of the film–the tall man (who conveniently wouldnt identify himself) placed hands on the prof FIRST.
    The woman in question with the camera was using language just as offensive and was verbally baiting the prof. If the tall man had placed hands on me–(and I am a small woman) I would have pushed him away. That is not assault–that is defending your own personal space. These activists behaved the same way the tea baggers do–how is this an improvement? For the record I am part Hispanic so I sympathize with the protestors, but their behavior was equally wrong. I think you are allowing your politics to flavor the actual visual evidence.

  14. The altercation began when the young woman stated that the prof had no right to ‘fxxking tell them…apparently how to stand up to their oppressors. The prof stated his opinion and the young woman continued to bait him verbally, at which point the prof did unzip his coat in what looked like an aggressive movement. Again, both sides were involved. The young woman who conveniently was NOT on camera was clearly trying to start a problem. She could have stated her case without obscenity and vitriol I have been to similar encounters with meaner opponents and I never acted like her. Both sides are at fault. Furthermore, filming a private citizen is NOT your perogative depending on the state. The filming set up an antagonistic situation. Again, the young activists were using the same rude strategies as the tea party and that cheapened the argument. Public figures such as political office holders or cops have no right to an assumed privacy (ie. to refuse to be filmed), but private citizens do. Stop thinking with your political views and look at the idea of fairness.

  15. To all:
    I have seen another news article with more complete information than this outlet. The article explains that Olmsted dropped his helmet, then took off his jacket which was threatening. Turley’s film and article do NOT explain this. I can admit when I’m wrong–and I was wrong. For the record, the obscene language used by the young lady in question DID cheapen her argument–it made it sound specious. Furthermore, the filming is a sore spot with me–as I have been abused by tea baggers where I live for fighting against the tea party’s racism. Jonathan Turley needs to write a post that is more inclusive of the facts–not that sides with one group. So, again, now with this new information–I admit I was wrong. I would advise Ms. Salazar to teach her group to omit the foul language–it cheapens their very valid arguments.

  16. What’s the professor’s hurry? Start a war? Wait a few minutes. We have the Authorized Use of Military Force, so the wars never actually stop. Or start, for that matter.

  17. jeaninemolloff,
    When people are conducting a protest, it does not matter what their cause is. We have seen that in court rulings protecting the right of the Westboro crowd to engage in provocative hate speech.

    The professor was clearly being an ass. Had I been there, I might have tried to get between him and those he was trying to confront as a means of defusing the situation. Of course, if he grabbed or shoved me aggressively, it would have been a mistake on his part. How serious a mistake would depend on the level of aggression.

    If I were his department head or Dean, a serious talk about his fitness to teach would be in order. I have known cranky professors, but if his fuse is that short, maybe he should not be around students.

    Speaking of people becoming aggressive. It is a good idea to know something about who you are aggressing. There are a lot of martial arts studios around these days. Many girls and women are taking classes. There was an incident on the TV some time back. I don’t remember what the scuffle was about, but it was caught on camera. This 300 pound guy who looked like a professional bouncer got himself tossed all over a parking lot by a tiny woman. IIRC, she threw him down on the pavement twice and into a brick wall once. She was never knocked off her feet. The scuffle ended when the police got there.

  18. jeaninemolloff,
    When I played football, one of the first things I was told; if a fight or scuffle breaks out NEVER remove your helmet. Removing a helmet sends two signals. First, when someone takes off their helmet during a confrontation, it is a surefire cue they are spoiling for a fight.

    The second signal it sends is, if you start a confrontation and take off your helmet, you are as dumb as a box of rocks.

  19. @ jeanine, I’m doubtful about the claim that the protestors did not have a right to record the prof. The man being videotaped is in in public. The prof is interacting with the person who is doing the videotaping. The recording seems to be done in the open. I’m no legal expert on this area, but if this is illegal, then I’d think that basically any video recording in public of any private citizen would also be illegal.

  20. First of all, I am always there to defend free speech–even that of a hate filled ass. That being said–you are wrong to jump on me (including after I apologized for jumping to a conclusion based on the limited story Turley reported); merely because I am pointing out the fact that the students in question were also verbally attempting to provoke. The young lady in question demeaned her otherwise worthy cause by using profanity and seeming to verbally incite any opponents. SHE DID NOT respect any difference of opinion–and NEITHER DID THE PROF. They were BOTH acting in a provocative and disrespectful manner. Before you start screaming at me–understand that if it were my group fighting for immigrant rights (which I back wholeheartedly)–the young lady issuing profanity and attempting to incite the prof–would have been asked to leave. Her behavior was also intolerant. My question stands—was there action blocking anyone’s ability to reach their motorcycle, etc.? It is a reasonable question. Oterray Scribe–I don’t need your patronizing advice. Nor do I need equally patronizing stories about football analogies. I’ve been to major protests in DC with the federal police pointing automatic weapons in our faces. I’ve done more than the peanut gallery. I’m just saying that regardless of the cause–more harm is done to a worthy cause by obscene and inciteful actions. They students needed to stick to the facts of the cause and not sink to the profs level. The 1st amendment means that we have freedom of speech and press and assembly–but it also means that those voices we find offensive ALSO have the same rights. The young lady in charge seems to have a problem with this idea. If you don’t like what I say–then flame if you must–but I’ll just consider the source.

  21. Michael Val,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and considered response as opposed to the vitriol on this site. Perhaps in some states it is legal to video someone, but until you have had someone film you against your will—and you turn your back to walk away—but they go around and get back in your face–you have no idea how intrusive this is. The videos online have already been edited and left out some visuals which explains the situation in more depth. As a private person–I have a right to walk away from a filmed episode if I choose not to participate. They do NOT have a right to surround a person, cutting off any exit points and continue filming once the subject to be filmed has said no. Public figures such as politicians and cops do NOT enjoy that same right. This same tactic was used by the Tea Party against me and it is meant to incite. It is also very juvenile to surround someone with vid cameras once they say no. I’m not saying these students did that–but part of the video looks that way. It depends on how much of the video you see. I suppose I overreacted to that aspect as I have been harassed that way by the very racist tea party (ironically for defending the same groups these students purport to also defend). The level of maturity on this blog is unbelievably juvenile. I have apologized for earllier statements based on the limited information in Turley’s piece–but I will not continue to be patronized on the nature of democracy by writers too cowardly to give their own names.

  22. The prof does not play well with others. He should be sentenced to two weeks in the sandbox at an elementary school. Every time he bullys a younger sand mate his sentence should have a day added to it.
    PS, was this a pilot for the Oregon shore? Which one was Snooki?

  23. Oh big deal. A non event in the grand scheme of things. Obviously too many people here with too much time on their hands

  24. jeaninemolloff,
    Defensive much? You do not know anything about “the source” as you put it. There is a very good reason I write under a Native American username. Professor Turley and the guest bloggers know who I am and that’s fine. I don’t know how old you are, but I am guessing I was involved in protests and community organizing long before you were born. As for keeping it civil in a protest, I do agree with that. No point in escalating an already tense situation.

    You might try civility when blogging; it works here too. Certainly much better than ad hominem. name-calling.

  25. The tall guy in the brown jacket certainly intentionally invaded the professor’s physical space, stood directly in front of him and VERY close to him, and placed his right hand on the professor’s left shoulder. From a strict “tort law” standpoint, that’s assault.

  26. Well… wrote:
    From a strict “tort law” standpoint, that’s assault.

    It is not an assault and you can review this in the Oregon Revised Statutes:


    Except as provided in ORS 161.215 (Limitations on use of physical force in defense of a person) and 161.219 (Limitations on use of deadly physical force in defense of a person), a person is justified in using physical force upon another person for self-defense or to defend a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force, and the person may use a degree of force which the person reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose. [1971 c.743 §22]

    The tall guy in the brown jacket was not the instigator of the aggression and he did not provoke the professor. It is clear in the video he was trying to prevent an assault by the professor against those before him and that is when he involved himself.

    No tort would be possible in this incident especially in the strictest sense because the statute clearly reads that these actions are justified.

  27. Well… :
    Perhaps. As we all know, anyone with a filing fee can sue anyone for anything. However, the element of intent appears to be missing. The tall guy seems to be using appropriate technique for attempting to deescalate the situation. The professor yanks off his jacket and glasses, and assumes an aggressive stance. Recall what I said above regarding the meaning of a football player yanking off a helmet when a confrontation begins. The gesture with the coat and glasses has the same psychological meaning.

    The tall guy is using is a technique commonly taught to security officers and police to force an aggressive person to back up. Get close to them so they instinctively back up when their space is invaded, and also get between the aggressor and the person they are trying to be aggressive with. I teach this technique, and I believe Gene H. does too. The technique is so effective, my little 5’3″ daughter is able to use it on aggressive prisoners and breaking up fights without getting herself hurt. It even works on guys a foot taller than her; however, the professor seems to be whining about the man being taller than he is. That is the moment we know he has lost, but he does not recognize it himself yet. The actions, both verbal and non-verbal, on the part of the tall man makes me wonder if he has a security officer or law enforcement background. His actions look like someone who has had more formal training than the average citizen. Could be martial arts training.

    The professor lashing out can easily be construed as assault. On his part intent is much clearer than on the part of the tall fellow because of coat and glasses, and other non-verbal signals. I really don’t see any such aggressive body language on the part of the tall man. Assertive, but not aggressive.

    As for the language, hang around any high school or college and you will hear language grandma would not care for. I personally don’t like it, but it is what it is. The only person in the video who demonstrates truly aggressive body language is the professor.

  28. Otteray,
    The tall guy is NOT a police officer, so his behavior is innapropriate. I can assure you that if he did that to me I WOULD PRESS CHARGES AGAINST HIM FOR ASSAULT. It is amazing how so many of you make excuses for the unprofessional behavior of the young lady. Her behavior and language DOES cheapen her arguments. She WAS inciting. She needs to take a clue or lesson from the good folks at SOAWatch. These people are the real deal and they have been fighting the good fight minus the foul language and the physical pushing. BOTH THE PROF AND SOME OF THESE STUDENTS WERE WRONG. If someone the size of the tall man sidled up to me that way–I would interpret that as aggressive and blocking my way on a public sidewalk. You have a problem in anyone daring to question ANYTHING these students do. I agree the prof is a racist ass, and he should face some legal consequences, but the tall guy was also out of line. As I stated before –the tall guy IS NOT A COP AND HIS BEHAVIOR IS AGGRESSIVE. For the record , the prof is more aggressive . I have no argument with you there–but I take exception at your patronizing football analogy. If you want to see TRULY BRAVE PEOPLE THEN LOOK TO SOAWatch–AND NOT SOME FOUL MOUTHED LAW STUDENT. I find it irksome that too many of these bloggers take such offense at my daring to question the student’s behavior as well. The video online has already been doctored. If some tall guy blocks my way —he better be prepared to sing soprano—JUST JOKING.

  29. The tall guy did the right thing. No one hit anyone. The adjunct professor is a very unhappy, disturbed man.
    Maybe his employer will suggest that he get some help.

  30. Really?! You think it’s ok for him to block someone else and get in their personal space?!

    While I have repeatedly condemned this racist ass of a professor-

    -I am appalled by the apologist stance of these bloggers. Stand in my personal space and refuse to move and I’ll have you arrested. I have had tea baggers do the same to me and others. So–it s ok if one of these law students does this–but not for anyone else? The tall guy wasn’t standing in his path to judge relative height–it was and always has been an aggressive form of body language. Why didn’t these ‘law students’ call the police right away? I’m done with this. YOU PEOPLE can argue this –but Im done with this close minded blog. One thing’s for sure–any large man blocks my path–and he’ll be looking out from the inside of a jail cell.

  31. I have no idea whether the tall guy has formal training or not, either in law enforcement or martial arts, which by the way is as much mental as physical if done right. Violent and aggressive people have been my bread and butter for more than forty years. Darren, who comments above, is a former career police officer and knows all this as well. If Gene H. wants to add his .02 he may have different opinions, so will be interested in what he has to say. I am telling you right now his intervention was not assault. There is a difference in intervention and assault although there may be physical elements in both.

    The behavior of the student is not at question. She was indeed loud and foul mouthed. There were several whose behavior was less than exemplary. So what. The man comes up to the students clearly looking for a confrontation and got it.

    It would have been funny if it had been my youngest daughter instead of the tall guy who intervened. You have no idea how funny.

    I don’t understand how you get patronizing out of me explaining the psychology of people throwing such things as headgear or coats, and its meaning in the context of implied threat. There are numerous peer reviewed articles in the professional literature on the subject.

    Speaking of helmets, NASCAR drivers have elevated the art of the helmet throw until it is now a separate sporting event.

  32. jeaninemolloff,
    This is a law blog. Lawyers and people who work with the law on a daily basis populate the place. You are trying to argue law here? Then get bent out of shape when the law is explained to you. Not to mention the psychology of violent actions.

    Bless your heart.

  33. Stand in my personal space and refuse to move and I’ll have you arrested.

    for what?

  34. I see we have another contestant who seems upset that when they came looking for an argument, they got one, but just not the one they wanted.

    Bless her heart.

  35. pete9999,
    I am guessing she is young, based on her writing style and almost total lack of knowledge of the law. Then when corrected or instructed on what the law actually is, calls it patronizing and somehow insulting. She does not show our distinguished host respect by referring to him simply as “Turley.” Yep, I am guessing pretty young and not all that well educated. Or if she has attended classes, she must be one of those students Judge Bazelon was referring to when he said because one has occupied a seat in a classroom for a period of time, does not guarantee that knowledge was inculcated.

    I have had students like her. Often wrong but never uncertain. Flunked most of them.

  36. Hi, Gene.
    Our favorite officer came home this afternoon, telling me about having to defuse a situation with a psychiatric patient. Funny thing, it was one of those get in your face deals. Her supervisor kept trying to get her to let somebody else handle it. She ended up telling the supervisor to back off and leave her alone, “I got this.”

    He let her handle it and the mental patient calmed down. The two main training supervisors told her she did well and handled it perfectly.

    As for the professor in the video, that man needs help.

  37. This was worth one good orange juice spew:

    One thing’s for sure–any large man blocks my path–and he’ll be looking out from the inside of a jail cell.

    Bless your heart.

  38. OS,

    Excellent news. I’m glad to hear B is thriving in the new environment.

    And I have to agree on the video. His responses were . . . unusual. It almost reminded me of a scenario we’ve seen here before where the mask of anger slips and behind it is actual anger. The “protagonist” comment was telling.

  39. jeaninemolloff,
    Why so angry? You’re angrier than anyone in the video.
    A disturbed man tried to get the crowd to beat him up. He was racist? I can’t tell. Not coherent enough.
    Nobody went for it.
    Tall man put his hand on the guy’s shoulder, maybe to telegraph any violent motion, maybe to calm the guy down. Takes nerve to physically intervene without violence.
    Everyone’s fine.
    You cannot arrest someone for being in your way. You walk around them.
    Calm down. No one’s going to hurt you.

  40. Seems like most of you guys have a very different take on the Prof than I do. I see him as radical leftist who is trying to make protestors think about and question the efficacy of their protesting. The whole thing seems like an act, at least up to the point that he realizes that he’s being recorded. Then, it seems that a light pops on in his head and he realizes that this is not going to look good, so he becomes really stupid and grabs her phone. I see the whole thing as more bizarre than angry.

  41. Michael Val,

    I don’t think your take on it so different than mine. An act goes awry and he reacts strangely, but arguably with anger. He seems angry to me anyway. Whether that anger is at himself for stepping in a big ol’ steamy pile of video poo or actual anger at the protesters? Only he knows for sure.

  42. Michael Val,
    Good point. I have told my kids and anyone else who will listen. Assume you are being recorded at all times. Whenever I interview a new hire for a law enforcement agency, I always pull out my cell phone and ask them if they know what that little black dot is on the front. Of course, they know it is a camera lens. Then I flip it open and show them the “celltop” icon, and ask if they know the implications of that. Many don’t so I explain I have the capability of recording video and uploading it to the Internet in real time. Even seizing the phone does no good. That video is somewhere else.

    That leads into a discussion of court decisions saying people can record anyone in a public place, so if they have done something embarrassing and it gets recorded, there is no unringing the bell. They are reminded that every fifteen-year old in the country has one and knows how to use it. On top of that, a lot of people get a kick out of catching police or authority figures doing something stupid. I warn new officers if they become the star of an embarrassing YouTube video, it is not only their Chief they have to worry about; they will be having another little chat with me.

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