Monday, November 21, 2011

UC Davis: Those Cattle Cars Won't Fill Themselves, You Know

A couple days ago, when I first saw headlines about police at UC Davis pepper-spraying nonviolent protesters on the campus, I didn't read the accompanying stories because I didn't have time: I'm only one person, an American person at that, and in America, "Police use violence against nonviolent protesters" has become the new "Child born to area woman": headlines like that appear every day, so you pay little attention unless you personally know one of the people involved.

Police Taser an tiny elderly woman, police attack a tiny pregnant woman, police beat a tiny college woman in the face -- like "TSA mistreats person in airport," it hardly qualifies as news in America anymore. It's just life.

So I might never have seen that UC pepper-spray video, were it not for the intense cheesiness of my local TV news broadcast: last night, while watching Fox's Sunday primetime cartoon lineup, I kept seeing commercials for the ten o'clock news: "Coming up next: [legitimate local news story], [another legitimate local news story], and what does the height of your heels say about the state of your finances?"

For some reason, I found that juxtaposition extremely funny: "How tragic, a young woman died at a Yale tailgate party last night, now here's a puff piece giving us an excuse to run stock footage of women walking in very sexy high heels! But we'll pretend it's an important analytical piece about the economy."

So when cartoons ended I didn't change the channel, but stuck around to watch the news and the "news," and after the legitimate local news stories but before the high-heeled puff piece, my local Connecticut broadcasters showed a video snippet of a pepper-spraying police officer 3,000 miles away.

The truly horrifying thing about the UC Davis videos is that the police look so calm. So bored. In other cases of police malfeasance toward Occupy Wall Street and its regional branch protests -- shooting a nonviolent war veteran in the face, beating the snot out of a woman half his size ... well, there's no justification for what police did in any of these cases, but there might sometimes be an excuse -- maybe the cops (rightly or wrongly) felt threatened, on high alert, drunk on adrenaline, and it's not humanly possible for them to do their best and clearest thinking once their fight-or-flight responses have kicked in. The cops who escalated matters in Oakland, New York, DC, Richmond et al -- maybe they can claim they thought they were acting in self-defense.

Not the cops at UC Davis. What chilled me about the video was how nonchalant the cop was. How casually he pepper-sprayed the quiet bowed heads of the students sitting before him, methodically going down the row to ensure every student got a good solid faceful of orange chemical weaponry.

Yesterday afternoon I acted with the same remorseless boredom, while cleaning some spilled coffee grounds from off my kitchen counter: Well, they're in a more-or-less straight line along one edge of my cutting board, so I'll start at this end and sloooowly make my way down. Whoops! Missed a spot. Lemme double-back with the sponge ... that's better. Not one individual spot on this line shall escape my notice. I'm gonna get 'em all.

Not that my thoughts were anywhere near that explicit. Truth be told, when I cleaned the coffee grounds yesterday I didn't think or feel much at all: I wasn't angry, frightened, or feeling threatened; it's just that whenever coffee grounds, flour dust, syrup drippings or any other foodstuff hits my countertop, it becomes "dirt" the second that happens, and dirt must be swept away before it attracts vermin.

Normal people have that attitude toward kitchen spills. Sociopaths have it toward human beings. And those cops at UC Davis weren't spraying pain chemicals point-blank into student's faces because the cops were afraid or even angry; they were just doing their jobs. When you sweep up dirt you don't worry about the dirt's well-being. The cops weren't angry at the students anymore than I was angry at my spilled coffee grounds. But neither did the cops concern themselves with the students' well-being, anymore than I give a damn for the feelings of my coffee.

Of course, I can see the difference between ground coffee and live people, same way I can distinguish between peaceful demonstrations and dangerous threats. Why does the University of California give weapons and badges to people who can't tell the difference in either case?

Those who make peaceful protest impossible make violent protest inevitable. I wish I could believe my government -- anybody at any level of my government -- understood that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I'm going to catch hell for this but these students were breaking university rules and interfering with police duties. The university said that the students could stay on the quad as long as they wanted but they couldn't set up camp. Guess what they did? Set up camp. So when the police were called to come remove the camp, the students blocked their way. That's asking for trouble.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Well, sure, Anon. Just like a woman who dresses the wrong way is "asking for trouble." Anyone who engages in civil disobedience of any kind deserves whatever the cops decide to do to them, up to and including prying open the jaws of people sitting quietly on the ground in order to shoot pepper spray down their throats.

So are there any side rules regarding the proportionality of appropriate force?

According to one observer, cops were starting to remove students without harming them, when Lt. John Pig said "Leave them. I want to give these kids some pepper spray." And BTW, the students did NOT block the way. As the videos plainly show, the line of students was only one deep and officers were freely walking around and on both sides of them.

Since people who violate "the rules" are "asking for trouble," maybe we should turn the tables. If what anyone in the University administration or the police force did was in violation of any paper policies whatsoever, then that means they're liable for whatever punishment the police care to mete out. I suggest they get the exact same treatment the pigs mete out to demonstrators.

1:03 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Anonymous authoritarian, even if the students DID deserve some legal punishment for their actions, determining that punishment is for the courts and a jury to decide, NOT a fat bored cop. Officer John Pike violated every standard Americans once claimed to stand for.

7:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Civil disobedience is code for brewaking laws. Should all lawbreakers simply be allowed to get away with their crimes. The old saying that your right to swing your arm ends at my nose is true. These "protestors" wanted trouble and they knew if they blocked access i.e. infringed on others rights who only wanted to go to classes that they would create a confrontation. They wanted a confrontation and they had video running in hopes of a confrontation. They got what they wanted. My sugggestion is the police should either be allowed to enforce the law or called off and let the "protestors" do what they want until all citizens agree that maybe random violence by radical left wing Marxists is a bad idea. This middle gorund of enforcing the law then demanding the enforcers be punished makes no sense. Either stop the crimes or let the criminals run rampant until finally even the very thick headed figure it out. Frankly I believe that part of the problem in this particular case is UC Davis or more accurately the entire free California university system. Imagine these rich kids getting a world class education at a world class university and they pull this stunt. California is going bankrupt. Close the state schools of higher education and sell the properties to private schools. The freebies are the problem, they create this attitude of entitlement. End this and end the corrupt fraud infested welfare system.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Frankly I believe that part of the problem in this particular case is UC Davis or more accurately the entire free California university system.

If you believe California residents get "free" university education, your information is at least 20 years out of date. Bear in mind, what started this protest was a proposed tuition increase of over 30 percent.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Anonymous said...
"Civil disobedience is code for brewaking laws."

Code? I don't think so; I think it means what it says. Sure, it's an example of breaking or disobeying a law, but not all breaking of laws would be considered civil disobedience - at least, not in the same vein as Henry David Thoreau meant, when he used it as the title of his famous essay in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The term is used to signify a breaking of a law as a matter of principle - because one disagrees morally with said law - not just any or every example of the breaking of a law. It also generally assumes that one is willing to bear the consequences of such an act.

Sometimes people, such as protesters or demonstrators, will break laws with which they normally have no quarrel in order to protest some other law with which they do. Some refer to this as civil disobedience; but if it is, then it is of a different sort than what was originally meant.

Throwing bricks and bottles at the cops, or breaking windows, setting cars afire, etc. might be called civil disobedience by some, although it is actually just rioting and throwing of temper tantrums - sort of like cops dousing nonviolent protesters with pepper spray, tazing them, or beating them with batons is often refered to as enforcing the law when it's actually just an example of general thuggery and throwing of temper tantrums because someone had the audacity to defy their "authoritah."

10:36 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Anonymous: Apparently "enforcing the law," for you, is code for "breaking the law." There are, after all, laws that govern the reasonableness of the force applied in a given set of circumstances. Do you believe anyone who "breaks the law" is fair game for anyone "enforcing" it, up to and including death?

Apparently, in your Bearded Spock universe, it's a hypocritical "middle way" to have any enforcement of laws at all, and yet not allow the cops free reign to conduct summary executions for jaywalking.

I repeat the points you gloss over. The pig used military-grade pepper spray, designed to be used from fifteen feet, two feet away from the protestors' faces. The pig forced their mouths open to spray it down their throats. The students were NOT, despite what you say, blocking access to anything -- the line was one person deep and the cops were freely walking on all sides of it, stepping over it, and walking around the end.

By any measure of decency, Lt. John Pig wasn't enforcing the law. He is the moral equivalent of Dim in A Clockwork Orange, a sadistic criminal piece of human garbage who found an outlet for his subhuman instincts by putting on a uniform.

And to elaborate on Jen's comments re tuition, it's more than doubled in just a few years and projected to go up another 30-40%. Universities operate on the same cost-plus markup system of accounting that resulted in the Pentagon's $600 toilet seats.

If anyone's a privileged, well-fed parasite, it's university administrators in collusion with high school guidance counselors and Sallie-Mae, in promoting the student loan and universal education scam.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tuition $5,472 per academic year is indeed not "free" it is rather heavil;y subsidized. However many students attending California schools do in fact not pay that tuition and it is "free" to them. I worked at state schools and I can assure you that full tuition does not cover even 1/4 of the cost. There is an enormous freebie to everyone attending state universities.

The increase waS 9%.

Does civil disobedience HAVE to be unlawful? Why would anyone choose to break the law to make a point? Why should Starbucks or McDonalds, or public buildings be destroyed to be civilly disobedient? Why do these protestors think they should be allowed to break laws that would get you and I arrested?

The "pig" had been subject to this spray in his training. It is uncomfortable and temporarily disabling. They interviewed one of the protestors that had been sprayed and you couldn't have wiped the smile off her face no matter what you did. Clearly she was quite happy about being a martyr for her cause (whatever that is).

12:04 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

So your anecdotes are to be taken as proof that Officer Pike's actions are completely acceptable and worthy of a self-proclaimed Free Country, then?

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No! I disagree with excessive force. Part of the problem is that officers are trained to deal with very violent criminals in situations that explode in a second. Only police who are trained in crowd control should be used for that purpose. This officer had a mindset going into this and it was clearly part of the problem. I hate to see our police who should "protect and serve" abusing power. It would be better for everyone, the police, the average citizen and these demonstrators if the police would stick to the protect and serve role.

7:41 AM  
Blogger TimS said...

Apparently the LEO types on the West Coast and elsewhere could learn a thing or two from those in St Louis:
A large OWS crowd dispersed with nary a pepper spray can or riot helmut in sight -- funny how when you treat people like human beings they tend to act like human beings.

8:44 PM  

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