I’m neither for or against the “Occupy” movement, but I am definitely a supporter of the US Constitution which guarantees:
…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances…
Yesterday, police at UC Davis demonstrated that they don’t value that particular edict established by the people when they turned a can of riot control pepper spray on a peaceful group of students sitting on the ground. The entire event was captured on video and in photos.
The man responsible for the attack on these citizens is UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike.
Take a look:
Here is a second angle on that event:
As Xeni Jardin from BoingBoing put it:
In the video above, you see a police officer [Update: UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike] walk down a line of those young people seated quietly on the ground in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, and spray them all with pepper spray at very close range. He is clearing a path for fellow officers to walk through and arrest more students, but it’s as if he’s dousing a row of bugs with insecticide.
What I find most egregious is that after spraying the students, the police still had to handcuff, arrest, and move them. None appeared to be resisting in any way, and I’m sure there are lawyers lining up to represent them in what is sure to be a huge wave of lawsuits.
Also of note, the UC Davis professor who helped organize the protest is calling for the resignation of the Chancellor of the University. In his words, here’s why:
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.
I have no problem with the police doing their job. If they need to clear the path, they have the power to do so. But they forget that their power is derived from the people, and we want to see it executed judiciously. There is case law which suggests these actions were in no way appropriate.
Here is a significant Ninth Circuit case regarding the constitutionality of pepper spraying peaceful protesters:
HEADWATERS FOREST DEFENSE v. COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT:
Characterizing the protestorsâ€™ activities as â€œactive resistanceâ€ is contrary to the facts of the case, viewing them, as we must, in the light most favorable to the protestors: â€‰the protestors were sitting peacefully, were easily moved by the police, and did not threaten or harm the officers. In sum, it would be clear to a reasonable officer that it was excessive to use pepper spray against the nonviolent protestors under these circumstances.
Here is a California law directly related to deployment of this kind of weapon:
California Penal Code Section 12403.7 (a) (8)
(g) Any person who uses tear gas or tear gas weapons except in self-defense is guilty of a public offense and is punishable byimprisonment in a state prison for 16 months, or two or three years or in a county jail not to exceed one year or by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment, except that, if the use is against a peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, engaged in the performance of his or her official duties and the person committing the offense knows or reasonably should know that the victim is a peace officer, the offense is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison for 16 months or two or three years or by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.
Thanks to Steve Garfield for bringing this to my attention, and Louise Macabitas for the photo.
What do you think about this?
There are just some cops who really have to ruin these useful things for us. I mean, pepper spray is a good alternative instead of shooting but to spray if it’s not necessary?! Isn’t there a protocol when it needs to be followed?
I agree that they need to get back to class and learn something, this may have been a way just to get out of class, but the police officer used the wrong tactic to move them. Hey if he uses that why not use a taser gun instead. Oh or even better use your gun…COME ON!! SERIOUSLY! Who is giving these cops the power? Are they just pulling these people off the street or are they just getting tired at their jobs, like a teacher does with their students, and just go crazy ape shit on people? I vote both. Are system is so messed up right now it ain’t even funny. It won’t matter soon anyways, because we owe so much money to other countries that they will own us soon without even a fight. We’ll be China 2 or something like that…lol. CRAZY!
We agree in that its their duty to maintain law and order but it doesn’t means that they have all rights to behave like this that action taken might proves harmful for public. This is simply misuse of their power and position.
rudi schmidt says
Seems to me that the police used the wrong ‘motivation’ to disperse the campers: time to get the billy clubs out and create access for students to go to class and try to learn something from their UC TA’s.
David H. says
Like our host, I have somewhat ambivalent feelings about the Occupy movement as a whole. But the point is not that you might agree or disagree with any, particular position they might hold. The point is most definitely that the First Amendment allows them to peacefully assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Who cares if some of them linked arms so that it would be more difficult to move them ? They have rights guaranteed by the Constitution to be there. The police had no right to move them, and certainly no right to excessive force just because they felt a little frustrated or inconvenienced.
Think of how the hard right-wing would’ve reacted if such tactics had been used at one of those Tea Party rallies…
So to be clear, there were not simply “sitting on the grass” as you claim. They were using each other to hold themselves fast to the ground, to prevent the officers from moving them from their position.
Tom Barr says
There’s so much wrong with these protests. They don’t really have specific grievances – they have issues with unemployment and profits, the problem is without profits you have more unemployment. They complain about greed but they want more education then they are willing to pay for so they go to UC and get a $200,000 education for maybe $40,000. Are they complaining about the greedy UC employees; more than 300 Berkley employees are paid over $200,000 mostly for regurgitating last years lesson plans and run back to their office to work on their money machine research or next year’s over priced text book. Are these kids complaining about Apple’s profits?? Well at least this group of protards weren’t defecating and doing other Occupy type activities. Go to class kids, quit blocking the sidewalk my tax dollars paid for. BTW, I got my graduate degree from UC but pricing at grad school is full market price.
John P. says
Tom, I can appreciate your opinions on the fact that this “movement” doesn’t seem to have a particular defined purpose with a definitive set of goals. But the reason I shared this post has really nothing whatsoever to do with the Occupy situation.
What we have here is a group of young people who were peacefully assembled. There was an overwhelming amount of police force present, and they could have easily removed the non-violent students without the pepper spray.
A lot of people have been trying to use the excuse that “the students were blocking the sidewalk” as rationale for being pepper sprayed. I personally think if it was happening to them they’d feel different… But regardless, I added a second video to the post above that was taken from another angle and which clearly shows that at least half of the people who were sprayed were sitting on the grass.
John, it may not be clear from this excerpt, but longer reports show that there were four categories of protestors. The first were those that packed up and left voluntarily. There were those that refused to go until arrested, at which point they followed police orders and went with the officers under their own power. There were those that passively resisted, by refusing to expend any energy whatsoever to leave. Those protestors were cuffed and carried out by multiple officers. Finally, there were these folks. They were *not* passively resisting, they were *actively*, by force and mechanical leverage, resisting the attempts by the police to remove them from the premises. I would suggest that anyone who condemns this particular choice of coercion ought to at least offer a genuine, *workable* alternative that would enable the cops to have removed these persons without causing them injury.
John P. says
Again, I’ll point out that these were just young men and women. Sitting in a row. Locking arms together.
I guarantee you that myself and three other guys could separate these people one by one in about 30 seconds each. There is zero doubt, and I’d be happy to prove that on video for the whole world to see. But the officers didn’t even try that.
They sprayed the pepper spray to punish those students and soften them up. It didn’t do any good. At the end of the day, they still had to separate them one by one anyway. So the spray was a waste of time and taxpayer money. And we’re not even talking about the fact that actively resisting by holding on to someone else is not the same as attacking a police officer who then becomes fearful for their own safety. In that case, spray or Tase away!
“were easily moved by the police”
That does not seem to apply in this instance.