pepper spray

  • November 20, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    As has been the case for too many involved in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, so it was at UC Davis, where a group of students engaging in peaceful, political assembly was confronted with excessive use of force by authorities.  

    OWS’s website states, in part, “Such incidents are unfortunately common,” and a “daily reality” of the country’s “marginalized communities.”

    As noted here, police actions to suppress OWS demonstrations have turned brutal in New York City, Boston, and Oakland, among others. The pepper-spraying of a group of University of California, Davis students involved in peaceful OWS protests, was captured on video, showing, as The Huffington Post reports, “the students seated on the ground as a UC Davis police brandishes a red canister of pepper spray, showing it off for the crowd before dousing the seated students in a heavy, thick mist.”

    The university’s chancellor, The New York Times reports, suspended some of the campus officers involved in the incident, and that “students and others affiliated with the Occupy U.C. Davis protests have called for the chancellor’s resignation.

    Glenn Greenwald, for Salon, says the “The now-viral video of police officers in their Robocop costumes sadistically pepper-spraying peaceful, sitting protesters at UC-Davis (details here) shows a police state in its pure form.”

    Greenwald says the brutality against OWS protestors, in demonstrations nationwide, is far too common a response, but highlights some “points to note about this incident,” such as:

    Despite all the rights of free speech and assembly flamboyantly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the reality is that punishing the exercise of those rights with police force and state violence has been the reflexive response in America for quite some time. As Franke-Ruta put it, “America has a very long history of protests that meet with excessive or violent response, most vividly recorded in the second half of the 20th century.” Digby yesterday recounted a similar though even worse incident aimed at environmental protesters.

    The country’s history of allowing this type of reaction to political protests has been exacerbated, Greenwald continues, by developments “in the post 9/11 world,” such as the government’s aggressive “para-militarization” of the ”nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons."

    See Greenwald’s entire comments here.

    UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said in statement that she feels the students “outrage,” adding she was “deeply saddened that this has happened on our campus ….”

    Meanwhile, others on campus are calling for the chancellor’s resignation. As The Huffington Post notes, an English professor, Nathan Brown, has released an open letter to the chancellor, calling for her resignation. He wrote, "You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt."

    Other commentators note that the brutality against OWS protestors is unlikely to oppress the messages being amplified about the nation’s growing wealth gap and the out-of-control power that Wall Street holds over policymakers.