A Disgusting Use of Force

I’m sure most of you have seen the video of the police officer pepper spraying a group of peaceful protesters at the University of California Davis:

As is usual when an officer is caught doing something naughty this officer has been put on leave and will likely resume his duties after this entire mess has blown over.

The divide between those who support and oppose the occupy movement is great and I’ve seen many of those in opposition saying the protesters got what was coming to them. To that I say bullshit. Whether you agree, disagree, or simply don’t care about the occupy movement it should be appalling to you that police officers would use force on non-violent protesters. These protesters were literally sitting with arms linked while the police decided it would be justified to first induce pain and then remove the offending individuals. Such gross displays of power make me sick.

The Constitution of the United States specifically declares the right of the people to peaceably assemble. Much of the time I spent writing has been directed at the Second Amendment but I believe all rights ascribed in the Bill of Rights must be equally defended. The University of California Davis is public property and the students were exercising their right to peaceably assemble. There is no excuse for the use of pepper spray in this instance yet here it is, and what makes me even more sick is that people are laughing about it. Somebody made an picture that perfectly described this scene:

That picture perfectly demonstrates the fact that pepper spraying non-violent individuals violates everything this country was founded on. It shouldn’t matter if you disagree with the occupiers, I disagree with a huge number of them myself, the actions taken by the officer should be appalling to any decent human being. Had the police simply arrested the protesters that would have been one thing but to actively enact pain upon them while the protesters themselves were enacting no pain on others is an escalation of force. Were I to do something similar to protesters on my property I’d likely be prosecuted.

When members of the occupy movement say something you disagree with then by all means speak out and explain why their statement is wrong. Many members of the occupy movement have advocating violence with such statements as expressing a desire to bring back the guillotine and those people should certainly be shouted down. Yet we must also realize that the First Amendment was put into place to protect unpopular speech as popular speech is in no need of protection.

Those who express a desire to protect the rights supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution should put aside their philosophical difference in this regard and contest the actions of police officers using force against those exercising their rights. Large number of occupiers are misguided but they still deserve equal rights under the law.

3 thoughts on “A Disgusting Use of Force”

  1. I’m not particularly familiar with this incident, and if I knew all the details, I may agree that in this case the cops were wrong.

    But being part of a protest does not give rights you would not have as an individual and may cause a situation that requires your arrest. If you can’t camp there as an individual, you can’t camp as a group. If you can’t block traffic, if you can’t trespass…

    If you resist arrest–for instance by sitting with locked arms–physical force of some sort will be required to perform the arrest. If you resist hard enough, the minimum force required is likely to cross the line into violence.

    1. As I stated it would have been one thing if the police would have simply arrested the protesters, that action would have been justifiable under some law somewhere (no matter what we do this day and age we’re breaking some law it seems). In this case a group of protesters side down on a sidewalk, linked arms, and basically made a spectacle out of doing nothing. The officers that arrived were not met with any physical resistance yet one of them decided it would be a jolly good idea to start dousing the protesters with pepper spray.

      This situation is even more disturbing to me when the fact the students weren’t blocking a road but a sidewalk in the middle of a huge, wide-open park. These protesters were, at most, a mere annoyance to those passing by.

      I would have agreed with the use of pepper spray had the protesters been violence in some manner. If somebody is causing damage to a person or property the situation needs to be resolved even if physical force is necessary. No quarrel is held by myself when an officer uses a firearm in self-defense as they too have the right to preserve their lives. But I don’t believe the police have a right to initiate violence anymore than you or I do. This instance was a clear case of unnecessary police aggression.

      I’m glad to say the Minneapolis Police Department hasn’t resorted to such antics, and will even say they’ve gone out of their way to be overly nice to the occupiers here.

  2. My objection isn’t to you saying this particular case was wrong, but rather the blanket prohibition on use of violence against resistant but peaceful people. There was a similar case years ago where protesters had linked arms inside large pipes–police were directed to move the protesters, and really didn’t have any nonviolent options (other than to let them continue to trespass) despite the protesters themselves not starting violence.

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