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….