You know that I’m not a fan of the Occupy movement’s tactics, but good grief, this cop’s action at UC Davis is hard to view as anything other than disgusting. Guy walks right up to peaceful protesters who are sitting down and threatening nobody, and cuts loose on them with pepper spray. Watch it for yourself. It’s breathtaking, the brutality of this act. I fully believe that if these protesters had no right to be there, and cops had ordered them to leave, and they refused, then they should have been prepared for arrest. But to hit them with pepper spray like this? Unspeakable.
I can’t see any legitimate basis for police action like what is shown here. Watch that first minute and think how we’d react if we saw it coming from some riot-control unit in China, or in Syria. The calm of the officer who walks up and in a leisurely way pepper-sprays unarmed and passive people right in the face? We’d think: this is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population. That’s what I think here.
Fallows links to a similar video from UC Berkeley. I was watching it just now when my seven year old son Lucas walked up behind me unnoticed. “They’re hitting them!” he exclaimed, audibly upset. “They’re hitting girls! If I was there, I would hit them back!”
The kid gets it. Do police? These videos makes an instructive pairing with this news, I tell you what.
UPDATE: What Erik Kain said, especially:
Events like the one in the above video [the UC Davis one] have been far too common in the police response to Occupy protests across the country. I do believe that Occupy Wall Street is at a tipping point, and that it must grow beyond and evolve away from the tent city occupations, but this police response is absurd and excessive.
Arrests exceeding 250 people followed protests in New York City yesterday. All across the country, cops are cracking down on protesters with force. I may be a critic of Occupy Wall Street, but the police are public servants, and public servants have no business treating the public this way.
UPDATE.2: To be clear, I do not oppose, in principle, the police clearing a space within reason. Wendy Kaminer is correct to say Occupy doesn’t have an unlimited right to impose itself on public spaces (much less private spaces, like Zuccotti Park). I only object to pepper-spraying people who were non-violently resisting. Why not put them in a paddy wagon? Isn’t that how it’s usually done? If they’re going to break the law in nonviolent resistance, arrest them. That’s part of the deal. But pepper-spraying them? Really?