A group of peaceful students protesting tuition hikes at the University of California Davis were blasted with pepper spray at close range by campus police. This horrific, violent and unprovoked attack was caught by news cameras and scores of mobile devices before instantly going viral.
Bear in mind, in the very first amendment of the United States Constitution we find our right to peaceably assemble is protected. But what happened at UC Davis was eerily reminiscent of how police deal with protesters in Iran or China.
UC Davis police claimed they felt threatened by the crowd, but looking at the video shot by a local news crew, one sees only a bunch of heavily armed and helmeted cops poking batons at kids wielding cell phone cameras and iPads. The police officers who did the spraying seemed utterly nonchalant, as though they were using Raid on pesky mosquitoes at a backyard barbecue.
In an e-mail sent to students and faculty just hours after the police assault on the protesters, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi seemed to blame the victims: “We deeply regret that many of the protestors today chose not to work with our campus staff and police to remove the encampment as requested.”
A few days later, Katehi was backpedaling as fast as she could as the public relations fallout over the scandal rocked the entireCaliforniauniversity system:
"We told the police to remove the tents or the equipment," Katehi declared. "We told them very specifically to do it peacefully, and if there were too many of them, not to do it, if the students were aggressive, not to do it. And then we told them we also do not want to have another Berkeley."
Well, she got another Berkeley, except Katehi’s happened in the digital age. The visual evidence of her police officers’ abuse is irrefutable. Now calls for her resignation are mounting. UC Davis Professor Nathan Brown’s petition demanding her removal has at least 73,000 signatures.
“Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students,” Brown wrote in an open letter. “I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students.”
Chancellor Katehi’s fate remains uncertain. So far, only UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza and the two officers who pepper sprayed the protesters have been held to account. They’ve been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
The far right media, which claims to hold the Constitution in high regard, went into mitigation overdrive. Conservative blogger Jim Hoft said spraying the students was, “How to shut down a row of screeching libs in 4 easy swoops.” Fox’s Jim Starnes asked what should be done about “domestic terrorists” on college campuses.
“We don’t have the right to Monday morning quarterback the police,” Bill O’Reilly laughably pronounced. “Especially at a place like UC Davis, which is a fairly liberal campus.”
Pepper spray, observed Megyn Kelly of Fox News, is just a “food product.”
I carry pepper spray when I hike in Montanain case I’m attacked by a grizzly bear. It is an awful weapon, especially when used on humans. Maybe Kelly should sample a dose on the air, perhaps as a salad dressing.