Pepper Spraying Peaceful Protestors Continues; This Time at UC Davis

It’s becoming a trend. Around the country, policemen are pepper spraying peaceful protestors. It started in NYC when Tony Bologna, one of New York’s finest, pepper sprayed a group of young women already cordoned off by a police barrier. Next they managed to get an 84 year old woman in Seattle. And now Lieutenant John Pike gives UC Davis protestors a face full of pepper spray, even though they were peacefully seated on the ground. To make things worse, “When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats,” or so claims Nathan Brown, an assistant professor in the English Department. (You can read a first-hand student account here.)

Initially the chancellor of the university, Linda P.B. Katehi, appeared to defend the police action. But, as the video above went viral, she began changing her tune and calling for an investigation into the matter. Nothing like a little transparency … and some public shaming (below) … to make people see the light.

You can read a fuller account of Friday’s events in the UC Davis newspaper. Also don’t miss the paper’s collection of photos on Flickr. And I’d also recommend the analysis by James Fallows over at The Atlantic. Here’s the money quote:

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.

And perhaps we can add this thought. If you’re the chancellor, the person charged with overseeing the education and welfare of students, you shouldn’t recognize the problem with Friday’s events only when the political heat gets turned up. Talk about a lack of human connection….

Updates:

Officers in pepper spray incident placed on leave

Learn about pepper spray and the harm it does



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  1. Michael Dougherty says . . . | November 20, 2011 / 5:59 am

    This police behavior is beyond shameful. Our constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and speech. This is not conditioned by agreement with prevailing myths about the American dream, now apparently in its death rattle.

    The essence of these protests by the 99% is pure patriotism, not criminality. The crowds protest the criminality of the 1%. The same 1% that has destroyed pension systems that ironically include the police.

    One can only hope that we do not return to the state violence of Kent State. We must never forget our history. In those times, the old despised the young protesters, today we are resonant souls. If our system does not serve the many, it must be revised. This revision is clearly overdue. It has been a long time in the making.

    No one in power should imagine that the discontent is not universal, cutting across all citizens. There is no question that there will be broad-based change. The question is will we make these changes peacefully and inclusively, or will they be borne out of violence. The early indications are not good.

  2. Nathan says . . . | November 20, 2011 / 5:27 pm

    Here in Utah a group of Polinesians were reciently pepper-sprayed. They weren’t even protesting… They were just trying to do an ethnic dance at football game in a rural town.

  3. Chris says . . . | November 21, 2011 / 10:11 am

    The violence we’ve seen seems natural enough to me. Moneyed people and powerful corporations have used government to become more moneyed and more powerful for some three decades. Also, we’ve dehumanized left protesters at least since the 60s, and continue to do so even in the most left-sympathetic parts of the media (The Daily Show and CNN, e.g.), never mind the right. So we have a clash of circumstances and attitudes.

    To my mind the best solution is to fire cops who commit violence against peaceful protesters. Not to do so, combined with the fact that the protesters are already dehumanized, encourage more. People might review Milgram and Zimbardo on YouTube for examples of the power of de-humanization.

  4. George Renner says . . . | November 22, 2011 / 1:00 pm

    My family has fought for the freedom of this country since they arrived in the 17th century and to see what this country has become…
    I find it a deplorable act of barbarism perpetrated by the police on this campus.
    Another great (and recorded) act of power going to someone’s head. If peaceful demonstrations are done this, what is next? Better hope none of these guys are on traffic duty, they may pistol whip you or even shoot you for speeding. The society is breaking down and this is just another example.

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