A couple of readers have drawn my attention to the video embedded above. It’s from an anti-OWS group purporting to show what really happened at UC Davis leading up to the infamous moment when the campus police officer pepper-sprayed students on the sidewalk. The video above, which is about 11 minutes long, is spliced together from a series of videos shot at the incident, and appears to show in chronological order what happened prior to the pepper-spraying. If this presentation is true and accurate, then it puts that incident in a significantly different light than I and many others thought. According to what is shown on this video, protesters trapped police on campus, and attempted to compel them to release fellow protesters they had arrested earlier — protesters who had been arrested after they refused three stated police orders — lawful orders — to clear the ground or, well, face arrest. If you fast-forward to the 7-minute mark, you will see the police officers’ exit blocked by protesters. You also see the officers going to the line of students and telling each one specifically that if they do not move, they will be subject to police action. Which, in the end, they were.
It is hard to see what realistic choice the police had here, other than to do what they did. You cannot have a mob of students trapping the police, and declaring that they will decide on what terms the police will be allowed to do their jobs, or even to leave an area. In fact, if this video above is a true account of what happened, it’s astonishing that the police were as patient as they were with these protesters. What did they expect? You trap the police on campus and tell them you won’t let them leave unless the free students they’ve arrested, and then the police tell you that if you don’t move and let them — let law-enforcement officers — pass, as they have a right to do, then you may well be subject to violence … well, you’re surprised when you get a mouthful of pepper spray?
Watch the video and tell me what you think. I was quick to believe the story told by the previous videos, so I don’t want to be too hasty to believe this one. But based on what I see here, I’m not sure at all that the police did the wrong thing at UC Davis that day, and I’m inclined to believe they did the only thing they reasonably could have done, given the situation the protesters put them in. Or at least what they did with the pepper spray was not unreasonable, though I suppose it’s possible they could have chosen a different response to clear the way so they could leave. But what? Physically assaulting the protesters and cuffing them? That would have been better? What could the cops have done in this situation aside from capitulate to the student mob refusing to let them leave without releasing the prisoners they’d arrested? Ideas?
I’m going to wait to hear what you readers have to say before I make my mind up.