Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.
What happened next?
Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.
What happened next?
Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.
Most of you have probably seen the video by now. It was difficult for me to watch and I have pretty high tolerance for being shocked. I did blog through the Bush 43 era in which the president, vice president and their conservative collaborators, with the help of most of the nations’ press manipulated the nation into a war. During the entire time and probably for the foreseeable future, with over 4000 American casualties and somewhere between a hundred thousand to a million dead Iraqis, Bush and Cheney were hailed as patriots. As one would expect liberal and progressives pundits and bloggers are outraged. Where is the nation’s outrage. If the video was of Iranian pro reform protesters or Chinese students protesting the government there wold be universal condemnation. Yet here we are in America with people engaged in peaceful resistance, a tradition as old as the United States and the state is using violence to stop people from exercising their first amendment rights. The 1st amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Garance Franke-Ruta notes at The Atlantic, Too Much Violence and Pepper Spray at the OWS Protests
And yet it is all too American. America has a very long history of protests that meet with excessive or violent response, most vividly recorded in the second half of the 20th century. It is a common fantasy among people born in the years since the great protests movements — and even some not so great ones — that they would have stood on the bold side of history had they been alive at the time and been called to make a choice. But the truth is that American protest movements in real time — and especially in their early days — often appear controversial, politically difficult, out-of-the-mainstream, and dangerous. And they are met with fear.
Even decades later, acts of protest can be the subject of heated debate and lead people to question (as well as celebrate) the moral standing of those who put their bodies on the line during moments of historic tumult — as Sen. John Kerry, Vietnam veteran and former anti-Vietnam protester, learned during his presidential bid in 2004.
This sort of dynamic holds for pretty much any group that aims to upend the existing social order using direct action, because few resort to such tactics if they think they have other, easier ways to petition for redress of grievances or could be heard as loudly through existing channels of expression.
At the same Atlantic link are photos and video of police violence in Portland, Denver, Seattle, New York and Oakland. The OWS haters are out and about on the net: The police can do what they want to protesters because the police are afraid, the protesters are dirty hippies, the protesters are all, fill in the blank…anarchists, commies, spoiled brats who want everything served to them on a silver platter, dirty, lazy, anti-capitalism. This is the same kind of demonizing people who think the status quo is not just or fair have always faced. Sure there are some wacky folks on the fringes of the OWS, but I remember when we were covering the tea bagger national temper tantrums the Right said that their movement was all-American and the wackos were just a few bad apples. Now the those same people are condemning the entire OWS because of ? A few bad apples. The police have the right to use this kind of excessive force against American citizens exercising their rights? No they do not. There have been many legal rulings covering the issue of excessive force by law enforcement. This is one of the more well know: United States Court of Appeals,Ninth Circuit. HEADWATERS FOREST DEFENSE v. COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT
Nine environmental activists and an environmental group brought this action, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the County of Humboldt, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, Eureka City and its police department, and several individual officers, alleging that the officers’ use of pepper spray on the activists’ eyes and faces during three peaceful protests constituted an excessive use of force in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. We previously issued an opinion, which is reported at 240 F.3d 1185 (9th Cir.2001), in which we reversed the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds to Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis (“Lewis”) and Chief Deputy Sheriff Gary Philip (“Philip”), the defendants who initially authorized the use of the pepper spray on the nonviolent protestors. We also reversed the district court’s decision to enter judgment in favor of Humboldt County, the City of Eureka, and their respective police departments following trial and a hung jury.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated our judgment, and remanded this case to us for further consideration in light of Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001), in which the Supreme Court describes the way in which to proceed when state officials assert qualified immunity in a § 1983 excessive force action. Having reviewed the facts and circumstances of this case in light of Saucier, this panel reaffirms its conclusion that Lewis and Philip are not entitled to qualified immunity. (emphasis mine)
The argument that people sitting down and locking arms is a form of violence are trying to change some fundamental reality. Locking arms is not listed as a synonym for punching or shoving. We have different words, different adjectives and verbs precisely because we use them to describe reality as accurately as possible. If non-violence is violence than standing is running, a high tide is the same as a low tide, not scoring a touch down is worth six points. I’ve heard some lame arguments in my lifetime, but this new attempt at shifting reality reminds me of something out of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or some communist propaganda. I posted about how easy it is to demonize movements such as OWS. The far Right has taken to the task like addicts on crack. The technique is so easy that even the wing-nuts and plutocrats can do it. You take a few incidents, disproportionately blow them up, dismiss the bad apple analogy for whoever the Right is attacking and as usual ignore the Right’s never-ending hypocrisy on basic tenets of justice and liberty. We can all play. Let’s say there is an organization whose members have been guilty of rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault and pedophilia – like the Catholic Church for example(The 2004 John Jay Report stated there were approximately 10,667 reported victims (younger than 18 years) of clergy sexual abuse). Add to the actual crimes repeated attempts by the Church to cover up, minimize the crimes and even try to hide perpetrators. Using the Right’s logic and that of some( not all) of the police involved in these crackdowns on OWS, the catholic Church is evil, guilty, a threat to society. Thus U.S. authorities should round-up all Catholics, beat them, pepper spray them, jail them and the church be banned from the United States ( Protestants commit their share of sex crimes too, they are just more difficult to track because of all the denominations). Its a fun game. Anyone can play and use can use a variety of groups. White males between the ages of 18 and 34? That is the group where many, maybe most serial killers come from. How about African-Americans males, they represent a large portion of serial killers as well when you take into account their percentage of the population. Let’s get the police to beat up, pepper spray all the white males and African-American males (Wing-nut Matt Drudge likes playing the all black males are criminals game). See how simple the rules are. Find some wrong doing by any group and paint that group as anarchists, hippies, religious fanatics, commies, spoiled brats who want everything served to them on a silver platter, dirty, lazy, criminal corporate presidents. There are legitimate arguments to be made against some group behavior based on their history. Police in the U.S. have a history of using excessive force – most often against people who are not in the upper 10% income bracket. Anyone heard of any cops pepper spraying one of the Wall Street CEOs who helped steal $17 trillion dollars from the American public? So the public has a legitimate right to express concerns over what appears to be the militarization of the police to use against any group of people who engage in their right to protest. Paramilitary Policing of Occupy Wall Street: Excessive Use of Force amidst the New Military Urbanism – NYPD officer shoves, threatens to arrest NY Supreme Court judge acting as a legal observer at OWS.
There is also the reverse game in which you portray any group as always good, decent and honorable. Boulder police bust window, save puppy from 90-degree car.
The keys to the truth is looking at statistical trends. Looking at a group’s behavior over time. Judging individual incidents just like a judge rules on individual cases. As much as I admire, respect and appreciate the law enforcement profession in general, it is time for a long hard look in the mirror. They are not just getting paid by the 1% to protect the powers that be, they are being paid to protect and serve all the citizens. I cannot find the link, but someone recently wrote that it appeared to them the police were acting as mercenaries for the 1%. I hope that is not the case. Unfortunately stories like this one are pretty damning, at least of police leadership – The cop group coordinating the Occupy crackdowns
But a little-known but influential private membership based organization has placed itself at the center of advising and coordinating the crackdown on the encampments. The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization with ties to law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been coordinating conference calls with major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs to advise them on policing matters and discuss response to the Occupy movement. The group has distributed a recently published guide on policing political events.
[ ]…PERF’s current and former directors read as a who’s who of police chiefs involved in crackdowns on anti-globalization and political convention protesters resulting in thousands of arrests, hundreds of injuries, and millions of dollars paid out in police brutality and wrongful arrest lawsuits.
These current and former U.S. police chiefs — along with top ranking police union officials and representatives from Canadian and British police — have been marketing to municipal police forces and politicians their joint experiences as specialists on policing mass demonstrations.
Chairing PERF’s board of directors is Philadelphia Police Commissioner and former Washington D.C. Metro Police Chief Charles Ramsey, who was responsible for coordinating the police response to protests against international banking institutions including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Those protests, and Ramsey’s response to massive anti-war demonstrations in Washington DC in the lead up the the Iraq War, often resulted in preemptive mass arrest of participants that were later deemed to be unconstitutional.
There is a bit of irony in all this as some modern police forces – almost all of which are unionized – were once demonized themselves for starting unions.
The birther wars continue. Orly Taitz, birther queen of California, personally filed a complaint in New Hampshire on Saturday that challenged President Obama’s U.S. citizenship and argued for his removal from the state’s ballot, reports the Concord Monitor.
New Hampshire’s electoral governing body, the Ballot Law Commission, turned down the complaint in a public hearing via 5-0 vote. It got pretty ugly shortly thereafter.
“Traitors!” screamed the members of the attending public. “Treason!”
Funny how none of the birthers were peppered sprayed or beaten so badly they had to be taken to the hospital.
Discussing his plans for the bogeyman of the moment, Iran, Santorum outlined a three-pronged strategy to pressure and weaken the regime that many fear could develop a nuclear weapon soon. First in Santorum’s plan as he explained it to about a dozen voters in Ottumwa, IA Friday is a tough regime of sanctions against Iran. Third is covert military action against Iranian facilities and nuclear scientists.
But here’s number two, in full:
Work with the pro-democracy groups. There’s been some activity in Iran in the last few weeks. Explosions that have been unexplained. A couple of leaders of the Green Revolution have been arrested. There’s some fomenting going and, and there’s strikes going on. We should have several avenues of getting money into Iran to help striking labor unions, to give them money so they can keep out on strike and disrupt the government and try to create the revolutionary atmosphere there. Because we need to get rid of Mullahs and get rid of the theocracy that’s in charge there.
It’s not going to be a huge surprise to anyone watching the Republican party in the past couple years that Santorum does not propose a similar US government partnership with unions in America..
I love the troll at the link who also argued that unions are good as long as they are protesting Iranian style theocracies, but not if they are negotiating in this little democratic republic we call the home of the free. He also added you’re all illiterate idiots for not seeing the world the way superior intellects like him and Rick do.
Glenn Greenwald has some good stuff in this column – Here’s what attempted co-option of OWS looks like, but he is also deeply wrong. If OWS does not make the transition to getting people elected who represent their views – locally or nationally, if they do not get legislation passed – say better regulation of derivatives or bringing back the Glass-Steagall Act for banks, than OWS are just irritating background noise to the current crop of elected officials and corporate plutocrats. OWS might be a powerful symbol, but corporate America is hardly shaking in its boots at some people in tents or carrying signs. They park their exotic German imports in the garage of their McMansion, cash their multimillion dollar bonuses and eat their caviar as usual.
Another reason the NYT’s Ross Douthat is an overpaid moron. Ross is lead plated proof the U.S. is not a merit based economy. I could get better insights for free at any construction site.