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?