The story of Jeremiah True — the Reed College student who made headlines last month as a self-proclaimed free speech martyr, and who was arrested last week for harassment and sexual abuse — only seems to get stranger the more I look into it.
The latest development: On Friday, True pled not guilty to charges that he groped two young women on a high-school Rugby team who were practicing in a Portland park; he remains in custody.
We now have some more details on what he’s charged with. The Oregonian newspaper has reported that
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, True walked up to and caressed the hair and arm of a female who was among a team of students practicing at Normandale Park …
True walked off, talking to himself, but returned to the park about 30 minutes later and approached a 17-year-old female and touched her breast with his open hand, and make a remark about her chest, the affidavit said.
Several witnesses restrained True until police arrived.
Portland police Officer E. Lamonte Johnson said True’s pupils were constricted and he was responding irrationally to questions and appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance… .
This is not the first instance of disturbing behavior from True since his story originally hit the headlines. In late March, he engaged in a bizarre series of protests against Pancho Savery, the Reed College professor who had banned him from class discussion sections for his disruptive behavior. These protests got him booted from campus.
Then last week, he posted a bizarre 114-page manifesto online in which, among other things, he declared himself “the most powerful man in the Free World.”
First, the protests. On March 30th, according to a detailed account in the Reed College Quest,
True sat on the floor at the front of Vollum Lecture Hall during Hum 110 lecture under the chalkboard which read: “Restore Jeremiah True to their Conference” and “Your hypocrisy is showing Dr. Savery.” True remained on the floor wearing earbuds and removed his shoes while Professor of English & Humanities Laura Liebman proceeded to lecture on Virgil’s Aeneid. At the end of the lecture, True yelled out “Cowards!” to the general audience.
Just before 10 a.m. that same day, True stood outside of Professor Savery’s Humanities 110 conference on the third floor of the Performing Arts Building. When Professor Savery and the Humanities students began class, True approached the glass windows of the class, looking at the class and staring into the room. According to Professor Savery, the students were “upset and disrupted” by his presence, and the class proceeded to lower the blinds.
True persisted, walking back and forth along the length of the glass wall, occasionally peering through the cracks in the blinds and into the classroom. Professor Savery says, “I think people [in the conference] made the decision to ignore him, so as to not let him take class away from them because they thought that had happened too many times. We tried to have a normal class and ignore his presence.”
True showed up outside Savery’s next class as well. One student told the paper that
“[True] was stalking back and forth by the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, aping and mimicking Pancho’s [the professor’s] gestures, glaring at Pancho, flapping his arms, and making strange theatrical movements. It was one of the worst conferences we had, and everyone was extremely quiet,” Garriss says, “If he was protesting, I don’t know who his audience was.”
School officials were called to the scene and asked True to leave; he did, only to return five minutes later. The next day, he was banned from campus pending the result of an investigation.
Last Wednesday, a day before his arrest, True posted a bizarre document that he described as “The Senior Thesis of Jeremiah True ‘18.” (True is a Freshman.) In it, he declared, among other things, that “[m]y controversial actions both online and offline have partly been a sociological experiment and partly been performance art.”
He described Prof. Savery as a “Clever Devil” and claimed that
Within this document, I will claim that Pancho ghost-wrote much of what I was saying, and I believe this to be true. While he did not directly aid me in writing any of this document or previous documents, I have adopted his philosophy on life so entirely that I fully consider myself to be the disciple of Pancho Savery and would bow down and worship him if he would let me. After I met Pancho Savery, I became a completely different person, and I don’t know how to explain it. I love Pancho like I love my family. He has put more faith in me than anyone in my life ever has. It has been by his power alone that I learned what it means to be a father, to be a teacher, to be a Reedie, to be a Black man, and to be a Philosopher-King.
After admitting that he had gone “too far with my protest of Pancho’s conferences,” he went on to say that
The actions that I performed outside of Pancho’s classes were, to me, tame. When I was warned that I was being disruptive, I was completely incredulous, as I had not been loud or naked, nor had I attempted to forcefully gain access to the classroom. I did not realize how low the bar was set at Reed for what constitutes disruption, and what constitutes threatening behavior, especially since I have observed White DMABs perform aggressive behavior without consequence.
DMAB stands for “designated male at birth.” I can only assume he is using the term sarcastically.
He claims that his disruptive behavior was a part of a deliberate if indirect plan intended to open a debate about free speech.
Rather than challenge a noteworthy scholar of the First Amendment [ie, Prof. Savery] , I instead chose to play upon the nation’s perception of Black men in order to foster the belief that I was disruptive in class. This was further reinforced by Dr. Savery’s insistence that I was disruptive in class and my numerous instances where I engaged in using profanity.
So far I’ve only read portions of the entire 114-page document, but what I have read veers wildly between lucid arguments and bizarre assertions; his thinking (as has been the case in his previous statements) appears highly disordered and grandiose.
In one of his most grandiose moments, he declares himself
the most powerful man in the Free World. Stop me. …
I am the God of MRA’s, Anti-feminists, Anti-Marxists, Libertarians, and White, heternormative men and women everywhere. I also claim that I am the God of Reed, as I have called forth miracles and created earthquakes in the student body. Kanye has nothing on my ego. Eminem thinks I’M his Rap God. … I am a misogynist and a misandrist, a racist, and a feminist.
Despite the jokes, he seems to take himself very seriously indeed, and to believe a good deal of his own hype.
I may return with more thoughts on his case once I’ve read some more of it.