Late last week, university police at UC Davis tore down the tents of campus protesters, arresting 8 students in the process, Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing reports.
At one point, to clear a path to reach students that they had already arrested, the police pepper-sprayed a line of seated, quiet protesters.
The video of the pepper-spraying, which we first posted on Saturday, has outraged the world. The comment below, from venture capitalist Chris Sacca, sums up the reactions of lots of people:
Seriously. Right now. Stop what you are doing, watch this video, and reflect on what it means to be American:
In the wake of the video, the university’s Chancellor, Linda Katehi, is facing calls to resign. She has said she is disturbed by the video, but does not think she should resign “at this point.” Another powerful video is now circulating showing hundreds of students protesting in silence as Katehi walks to her car.
Here’s the pepper-spray video. The pepper-spraying happens right at the beginning. More context and photos below.
Here are some other photographs of the confrontation, which were shot by The Davis Enterprise’s Wayne Tilcock.
The top one provides some important context. According to a reporter at the scene, it shows that the protesters were warned by the policeman who sprayed them, Lt. John Pike, that they were going to be sprayed if they didn’t move. The pepper-spraying was still obviously overkill, but the alternative appears to have been physically dragging the students out of the way, which also would have been ugly.
(The other alternative, of course–and presumably the best one–would have been for the University to just let the students keep their camp. But for everyone at UC Davis who prefers the campus without the tents, this probably also wasn’t an attractive solution.)
Lieutenant John Pike, the pepper-sprayer, is being vilified on the Internet, as are the rest of the police involved here. And maybe they are indeed horrible people who want to turn America into a police state. But in the interests of fairness, put yourself in their shoes, and think about how you would have handled the situation. (Simple arrests would have been more appropriate.) And also feel at least a moment of relief that the weapon used in this case was pepper spray, not bullets, as in the Kent State massacre of 1970, in which the Ohio National Guard killed four unarmed students.
Here are some additional photos from The Davis Enterprise, starting with the one in which the protesters are warned that they might be pepper-sprayed. Click here for more >
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