November 19, 2011

UC Davis: Dissent and pepper spray

The police show the world how NOT to handle dissent and protests at UC Davis.  From the Huffington Post:
On Friday, a group of University of California, Davis students, part of the Occupy Wall Street movement on campus, became the latest victims of alleged police brutality to be captured on video. The videos show the students seated on the ground as a UC Davis police officer brandishes a red canister of pepper spray, showing it off for the crowd before dousing the seated students in a heavy, thick mist.
 And here's more from CNN:
The chancellor of the University of California, Davis, under calls to resign, Saturday called police use of pepper spray on seated Occupy protesters "chilling" and established a task force to look into the incident.

The video broadcast by CNN Sacramento affiliate KOVR showed an officer, in a sweeping motion, spraying protesters point blank on Friday before other officers moved in. Eleven people were treated on site for effects of the yellow spray. Two of them were sent to the hospital, university officials said.
Here's one of the videos of this incident:

Assistant professor of English Nathan Brown wrote an open letter to the UC Davis Chancellor.  Here's a selection:
I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.
Read the rest.  Here's my question: Now what?  I find it pretty shocking and disturbing that the police reacted to this protest in this way.  Yes, I can understand the fact that the police had a job to do, and I can understand the fact that UC Davis felt it needed to "do something" about the protests.  Fine.  But this?  Since when is it necessary to resort to these kinds of actions when dealing with non-violent protesters?  Why are these student encampments so threatening that they necessitate pepper spray and violence?  What were these police thinking?  What do they really think they accomplished with this?  Do we really want to sit back and watch as the government (and university officials) respond to dissent and protests like this?  At what point is enough enough?

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