Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pepper Spray Day

Usually I like to keep current events off of my blog. I much prefer to talk about yarn, adventures, and have lots of pretty pictures up, but this has hit a little too close to home for me not to talk about it. So this might be a little more word heavy. For those of you who don't know, I am a UC Davis alumnus. And right now everyone is talking about the incident involving a UCD police officer pepper spraying students who were involved in a non violent protest. I'm going to leave some videos interspersed throughout this post.

The actual incident.

What has hit me is the lack of ACTUAL reporting that has gone on. I understand that major news networks have a lot of news to cover, but when something this big happens, you would think that they would actually talk to someone who was there. Or maybe someone who has been involved with the protests. It looks like they all just watched the youtube video that everyone else has watched and summerized it. "Police pepper spray non violent protesters" As a student who was there for previous protests, I'd like to share a few things that aren't being said.

First of all, the people who were sprayed were expecting to be arrested, not sprayed. As with previous protests that I had been present for on the UCD campus, there would have been people keeping watch and letting those who did not want to be arrested know when the police were coming. The police could have easily arrested those students. No pepper spray was needed. That is what happened in the past and that is what was expected on "Spray Day"

The second bit that isn't being said is that the UCD police have always overreacted to everything. I will cite a personal experience. I had forgotten my bike light one night while on my way to meeting someone. This is a big no-no in Davis. But I was on a well lit part of campus, which is closed off from traffic other than police, maintenance, and the occasional pizza guy. One of the campus police stopped me. I offered to walk my bike. At this point he accused me of being drunk. I wasn't. Then he accused me of being stopped before. He told me, "I remember you. I've stopped you before." I was horrified. I'd never actually talked to an officer in Davis before and here I was, being accused of being a repeat offender. And for what? Not having a bike light? I ended up telling him in a strong, loud voice, "That is untrue!" At which point he told me that I could just walk my bike. You know, like I had offered to do at the beginning. I'd never felt so threatened in my life.

The rally on Monday. It happened at that same spot the Pepper Spray incident happened.

The big uproar at UC Davis isn't just because protesters were sprayed with pepper spray. It's that everyone in power has supported the excessive police action. At least until now. Now the outside world is telling the administration at Davis that this isn't ok. It isn't fine to bully students. Because that what that incident was. It was the police abusing their power any bullying the powerless.

Professor Nathan Brown spoke at the rally on Monday.

Now the police chief and two officers have been put on leave. But I'm going to bet that they are just waiting for everything to blow over before reinstating them. And that would be the worst thing we could do: letting this blow over.

I could go on, but there have been some excellent articles written by people who were there that day.
  • An article by Bob Ostertag, a professor of technocultural studies at UCD talks about Militarization of Campus Police and how even prisoners are not allowed to be pepper sprayed if they are seated. 
  • Professor Nathan Brown wrote an open letter to Chancellor Katehi on why she should resign.
  • And an article about how hot pepper spray really is.
  • I couldn't help but share the one dumb thing that has come of this. It's a little funny though. There is now a tumblr dedicated to the Pepper Spraying Cop.


Anonymous said...

On my campus, last semester we had a big problem with students protesting for living wages. They completely had a right to protest, but because they became particularly disruptive (one of their sit-ins in the President's office went over 12 hours) they were arrested by campus police and got student conduct violations. Still, at no point did our campus police get violent, and I think if they did, our student population would not have been so supportive. The fact that the campus police at UC Davis(who are really supposed to be there to make sure students are safe) were so violent seems crazy. And then you add to the fact that the officers were put on leave to diffuse the situation- I don't think the President has admitted that they've done anything wrong. It is completely mind-boggling!

Anonymous said...

As collegeknitting says, that's crazy. Good on you for talking about it.

Ashleigh Pie said...

Thats so crazy, I can't believe you got into trouble just because you didn't have a light on your bike

Jennifer said...

This is very troubling, indeed! I was pepper sprayed several years ago at a 'peaceful protest' in Quebec City during the NAFTA free trade negotiations, and found the pepper spray to be significantly worse than I had expected. I felt as though my lungs were burning away and had a lot of difficulty breathing; the idea that this is a legitimate public policy action for a government to take against its citizens is ethically questionable. Anyway, I've been trying to think of something intelligent to write in response to this post, but my intelligent muscles are not working right now. Thank you for sharing this post.

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