UC Davis’ Pepper Spray Incident

My fellow Readers, I need to get your thoughts on something. I have been having a tough time understanding the events of the UC Davis pepper spray incident that occurred to our horror several days ago.

The backlash has been loud and passionate. From the liberal quads of the progressive Californian University, UC Davis, to the airwaves, twitter feeds and blogs, people have reviewed the video of the pepper spray incident that has gone viral.

From what I can tell, an Occupy protest peacefully protesting on campus at UC Davis caused, at some point and for some reason (which I have been unable to find), the UC Davis Chancellor to order campus police to disburse the Occupy Protestors.

The video of students being pepper sprayed shows a line of protestors sitting in the middle of a road apparently refusing to disburse. While there was no apparent threat to the Police, one peace officer walked the line of protesters and sprayed a constant stream of the neurotoxin right into the faces of the seated people.

Screaming and chaos broke out and the protestors disbursed. Mission accomplished, right? Well, maybe not. The backlash from students was geometrically larger than the original Occupiers. The school and Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi are in real trouble.

The immediate student response was semi-violent (rather, did not seem peaceful) throngs of students outside Chancellor Katehi’s office calling for her resignation. The standoff ended with a negotiation between students and the Chancellor that allowed for her to leave peacefully by walking from her office through the throngs of protesters who ubiquitously remained seated and silent to show how ‘peaceful’ they really could be.

The following is graphic:

I am really scratching my head over this one. The backlash and response to the violent use of authority by the campus police has been so profound that I cannot find details regarding why the Chancellor found it necessary to break up the protest in the first place.

Does that matter? Well, I think it could. Depending on if the protestors were putting other students at risk or were impeding the academic institution from its primary mission—educating students, then the Chancellor would be within her right to order that the protest be broken-up. When the school administration ordered the protest to be broken up, no specific instructions regarding the use of force were provided to the campus police. And they should not have had to. The campus police should be left to their own judgment and devices to determine how to do their job, right?

Please share your feedback; I look forward to flushing this issue out.

3 responses

  1. I think the UC Davis incident is a magnification of what is really taking place in this country. With new occupy movements springing up in every corner of America it leaves me scratching my head as well. While the incident in itself is centered around excessive force and the parameters of student safety i think it highlights a much larger issue. Having only heard bits and pieces of the story i did a little research myself. After combing through somewhat illogical comparisons to Kent State and the civil rights movement I realized that there was a big hole in the story. What are these protests attempting to accomplish? Living on the East Coast it seems the occupy wall street movement updates are as regular as the traffic reports, but nobody ever seems to mention what the movement is really intending to achieve. I understand the right to gather and the sentiment that this is the voice of the “people” but i cannot for the life of me iron out what that voice is saying. It is our right as Americans to protest and to gather and to speak out, but sometimes I read these stories and it leaves me wondering who the effort and the inspiring utilization of technology is really intended to influence. Wall street, bonuses, big banks, bailouts, 99%, this is the lexicon of our current political state, but just writing these words on signs and protesting all of it seems misguided. Imagine what we, as a nation, could achieve if this impressive show of populous had a driven center, a goal in mind past the economy sucks lets blame the rich people. Take all the man-hours and the manpower exerted in this occupy movement and add them up. Imagine how many people could have been helped, how much public reform could have been achieved. Whatever the cause is, make it mean something. Bolster the bottom and the structure will rise true. Change someone’s life, volunteer at a youth center spend time at a homeless shelter, build homes for the truly disenfranchised and impoverished members of this society and think how much more this could all mean. A magic marker a sign and a transcendental gfaw with all the bad things going on this country is not enough to inspire change. I wonder if the protestors pass the homeless men and woman on the streets of new york on the way to zuccotti park, signs in tow, and truly believe they are making a difference. Stop buying sharpees and construction paper and pick up a coat for the people preparing for another frozen winter on the streets of our most populated city. Obviously I have skirted the actual topic here, but the personal ethics of the man with the can does not concern me as much as the truly complacent activism that is taking over this country. Apologies for the rambling nature of this response but once the ball started rolling…

    • Marcus, great post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think they are more coherent than you give credit. I intend to tackle the OWS ethos in an article that will be posted shortly but is currently stewing in the ol’ noggin. I have not quite pinned it down either but think it has something to do with the conflicting dogmas: welfare state versus free enterprise (personal responsibility emphasis of the “Greatest Generation”).

      I think your post touches on something that many of us fail to recognize. At the end of the day, what are these people actually accomplishing? How does their efforts (in favor of whatever their cause is) translate into affecting the World at all? Can it be measured or should these people pick up their mess and contribute to society as you suggest?

      With regard to the UC David incident, however, I think that most people outraged by the excessive use of force on protesting students is warranted; however, the question asked in my original post (why did the University authorities order the police to disband the protest in the first place) begs to be answered.

      I suspect that these students were obstructing some ‘property’ that characterized the protest as ‘obstructive inaction’ instead of its self proclaimed ‘peaceful’ nature. While sitting in the middle of a street refusing to move does not involve ‘aggressive action’, which would normally contrast with ‘peaceful demonstration’, it does seem to represent the same smug and self-satisfied liberal strategy of ‘obstructive inaction’–like Civil Rights activists making their bodies go limp when being arrested in the late ’60s.

      What I mean to say is: the students were likely either obstructing access to the road that they were sitting on or were somehow disrupting the University’s academic responsibilities/focus or the general safety of its students. Unfortunately, any reporting on the incident fails to consider this factor–which is presumably the University’s defense.

      So this kind of obstruction of private property–whether it be blocking a University road or distracting a University from teaching its students [in conventional classrooms–don’t get cute on me], could presumably argue against most angry reactions that are characterized by the ‘freedom of assembly’ argument.

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