How to Lose the Sympathy of Reasonable People: A Short Primer
Let’s stipulate that there are legitimate questions of how to balance the rights of peaceful protest against other people’s rights to go about their normal lives, and the rights of institutions to have some control over their property and public spaces. Without knowing the whole background, I’ll even assume for purposes of argument that the UC Davis authorities had legitimate reason to clear protestors from an area of campus — and that if protestors wanted to stage a civil-disobedience resistance to that effort, they should have been prepared for the consequence of civil disobedience, which is arrest.
I can’t see any legitimate basis for police action like what is shown here. Watch that first minute and think how we’d react if we saw it coming from some riot-control unit in China, or in Syria. The calm of the officer who walks up and in a leisurely way pepper-sprays unarmed and passive people right in the face? We’d think: this is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population. That’s what I think here.
I can’t really improve. This isn’t how we’re supposed to do things in America.
Update: Yes, it’s reasonable to ask how I might have avoided this situation, if I’d been in charge. It’s also a really, really easy question to answer. I’d let the protesters have their tent city in the first place. Just avoid the whole protester/cop standoff entirely. If something has to give, it shouldn’t be the protesters. It should be the use of pepper spray upon them.
They’re Americans. They are exercising a First Amendment right. I know all about restrictions on “time, place, and manner,” and sure, they’re sometimes allowed. But when this is what it costs, well, the costs are just too high. Shouldn’t be hard to figure out — this wasn’t a dilemma we ever needed to be in.
Update II: I’ve closed the comments. A particularly determined commenter seems intent on calling me a “fascist shitbag” and other such epithets. Why? I’m honestly not sure. I guess that my calling the police behavior in the above video “sadistic,” “un-American,” and “utterly revolting” connotes (for him) a warm acceptance of said behavior. I don’t know how I could have made it any clearer that, no, I don’t actually approve. I’ll just say that even a full day later, watching that video makes me want to throw up.
I’ll also say that I have much more important things to do with my time than play silly comment moderation games with someone possessed of a very large number of IP addresses. I’m sorry this didn’t work out, folks.